“We have to start talking about it. We would never be ashamed of our boy and we feel so strongly that people have to wake up to what is going on in this country – it is an epidemic.”
Jane Stevens is speaking on the phone, talking about her son Nicholas Taiaroa Macpherson Stevens.
The 21-year-old died in April. In hindsight, there were subtle clues. Small, strange things the usually benign and peaceful Nicky said, veiled hints that he had devastating plans that would end his short, vibrant but tumultuous life.
“As parents we felt like we were scratching our fingernails against a plate glass window trying to get people to listen,” Stevens continues.
“He tried to ask for help many times, in his own way. As much as we wanted to support Nicky in every way possible we also didn’t have the level of knowledge we needed to support him effectively. Nobody talked about it, we weren’t and aren’t the experts.”
The bucolic Southern Alps, glacier carved fjords and lush pastoral landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand mask a dark statistic – one of the highest suicide rates in the western world.
From Bluff at the bottom of the South Island to Moerewa in the poorer North, New Zealanders are killing themselves at unprecedented rates.
This month the Office of the chief coroner released provisional suicide statistics that found in the past year 564 people died by their own hand – the highest number of suicides since records began eight years ago.
The figures – which are nearly twice the annual road toll – means New Zealand has the second highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
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