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September 18, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Yes We Care

CW: Suicide


606 shoes were laid out on Parliament’s lawn on September 10, representing the number of New Zealanders lost to suicide in 2016. The shoes had travelled from Cape Reinga and Bluff to be presented on International Suicide Prevention Day as part of the Shoe Project, an awareness campaign organised by Yes We Care.

New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world, five times that of Britain and twice that of Australia. The number of deaths has risen for the past three years in a row, with 606 in 2016 (year ending June) and 579 in 2015.

Yes We Care is an alliance of community groups, patients, and health workers aiming to make health and mental health funding a key election issue. The Shoe Project campaign started on August 26 with a collection of 579 shoes, increasing by 27 when new statistics were released. Of the total, 130 pairs belonged to Māori and 475 belonged to men.

The campaign stopped in seven cities over fifteen days. At each event a local affected by suicide told a personal story while holding a pair of loved one’s shoes. Spokesperson Simon Oosterman, speaking of the display, told NZ Herald that “when you see it it really hits you how many people we’re missing. It can be distressing for people but we need to talk about it.”

Attendees were invited to sign an open letter in support of Yes We Care’s election pledges. Yes We Care are calling for political parties to set a suicide reduction target, restore $2.3 billion in health funding, and run an independent inquiry into the nation’s mental health crisis.

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