Between the 29th of June and the 30th of July EntreHub will be a running a series highlighting people and organisations working in the field of suicide prevention. In Australia more than 2,500 people die as a result of suicide each year while in the United States the number is in excess of 40,000. Here at EntreHub we believe that these stories and these people matter. Please help us spread the word.
Imagine walking into a room of a couple of hundred people, most of whom you don’t know, at a conference where the subject is suicide prevention. You’re a little bit nervous because you’re meeting a lot of these people for the first time and you know it’s going to be a heavy few days.
Then, from across the other side of the room comes this voice, kind of like a giggling teenager, that says “bro, bro, over here! You have to see this…you’ll be laughing all day!” The voice was that of Michael Naera, a project leader for a suicide prevention programme in the New Zealand city of Rotorua. Michael and the organisation he works for, Kia Piki te Ora, were hosts of the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference.
Walking over Michael has the video he is playing on his phone and sure enough I was left laughing for a good few hours. Naera is a man that you wouldn’t expect to be your traditional front line service worker in the world of suicide prevention because his infectious smile and laughter are more like an entertainer. But, that smile and that laughter mask a serious man on a mission to save the lives of his people. Just over fifteen years Michael’s life was touched by suicide when six local people too their lives, including two uncles and a niece. Then, twenty years ago, Michael also made an attempt. Talking to Journalist Chris Barton, Michael reflected on a breakdown in a relationship:
“As a tane (Maori word for Man), you start questioning your manhood, you start questioning your mana.” Michael found himself standing on a cliff and rang his girlfriend.
“She threw me a lifeline. She said: ‘I actually love you, come home’.” When Michael got there he found his girlfriend had bought his whanau with her. “They just gave me a big hug and said: ‘Come with us, bro’.”
What followed was an intervention, by his auntie and uncle, using traditional Maori ways of healing. “They took me through a journey to pull me out of that state of huge depression and to feeling OK, that I could walk now.”
Twenty years later and Michael is now on the front line as a Kia Piki te Ora Project Leader and work within the Lakes District Health Board catchment area where his role entails working from a public health perspective in Maori suicide prevention when it comes to: promotion of mental health and well being for Māori, Contribute to improved mental health services for Māori, Reduce the access to means and Increase safe reporting of suicide by media.
Five things Michael’s organisation is doing to make a difference to prevent suicide includes:
"We’ve just recently held the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference and Indigenous Youth Summit in Rotorua. Just over 500 delegates attended this conference inclusive of 200 youth for the Summit. Six recommendations fell from this conference including: the support for the Turamarama ki te Ora Declaration; Establish a Global Indigenous Network; Support a Treaty between Maori and Aboriginal; Run an annual Youth Summit; Development of Indigenous Suicide Prevention Resources; and Provide suicide prevention education for youth around identifying the signs and signals of youth in distressed."
"Our organisation supported the Book Launch of Heeni Morehu’s story about losing her two son’s to suicide. Named the Tree of Life: My Journey with Grief. This one week event was attended to by over 500 people and an estimated television, audio, and print audience of more than 500k.Our aim was to firstly support Heeni and her whānau but to raise the awareness of suicide prevention, which by the way went global."
"We supported the Key to Life Charitable Trust’s ambassador and founder Mike King to present his talk “It’s Cool to Kōrero” to schools in Rotorua, Reporoa, and Taupo. Alongside this activity we also organised community presentations with our Coroner, Dr Wallace Bain. We named this “A Coroner and a King.” Mr Mike King labelled this event as his most successful to date (at that particular time). Probably because these presentations supported his Target Zero Documentary at the time. Again, approximately 2000 people showed for this event and publicity went global once again."
"Prior to running the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference, our organisation ran the very first Maori Suicide Prevention non-Government funded conference in 2015. This event attracted 250 delegates and highly regarded speakers such as Dame Tariana Turia, Moana Jackson, and Professor Said Shahtamasebi."
"With regards to local initiatives our organisation has developed a Pocket Information Resource, Maori Suicide Prevention training, and whānau day events. All these activities have involved community, without a doubt. "
I asked Michael to give me two things that a reader could take away from this article:
“Suicide is a complex issue but the means to support someone should be simple. For example having a cup of tea and good ole talk is all it takes. Nothing less or nothing more. Keep suicide prevention simple and those who are feeling down or stressed will feel comfortable to talk to you.”
“There is a catch phrase “Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business.” This is true in every way possible. But sometimes it is our (the families) business in the first instance to provide protective measures for preventing whānau (families) from reaching the bottom of the cliff. Nobody knows me better than my family and friends. Do everything possible to stay well connected with each other and our surroundings.”
From being impact by suicide to working to prevent suicide – this is why Michael Naera is one of the unsung heroes of the sector.
Watch Michael talk about his journey: (video produced by the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation)
Where to get help (in New Zealand):
Lifeline - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
Healthline - 0800 611 116
Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services contact 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au/gethelp.
Matthew Tukaki is the editor in chief of EntreHub and chairman of Australia's National Coalition for Suicide Prevention
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