07 Oct New Zealand’s Dirty Little Secret
I read an article online this week that said New Zealand had reached a new milestone. A new record. A “personal best”. No, it had nothing to do with New Zealand being the most beautiful or the most liveable country in the world. It didn’t even involve the auspicious Rugby World Cup. No, New Zealand, the place I was born and raised and proudly called home for 30 years set a new record for the highest number of suicides ever recorded in a year. 564 to be exact. Let me be clear exactly what that means. Over the last year, 564 people woke up in the morning just as you and I did today. They went to the bathroom and looked at themselves in the mirror. But that day something was different for them. It was all too much on that day. They decided they would rather be dead than face another day living in New Zealand. One person every 15 hours. My high school had around 600 people in it. Maybe yours did to. Stop for a minute to imagine over the course of the last year, every single person in that school made the decision to take their own lives and just end whatever pain that they were going through. What does it say about us?
My friends, I love you all but we need to have a chat. We need to discuss the fact that we have become very sick as a society. That’s not my opinion, it’s is a fact. I for one can’t go on any longer not talking about it. But Nathan, it’s awkward to talk about it. It’s embarrassing. Everything’s fine. Shhhhhhhhh. Be quiet, the rugby’s on. Ok, i’ll just wait over here in the corner until your best friend kills herself and then we might have a little chat about it, ok? Heaven forbid we have an awkward conversation once in a while. As you can probably tell, i’m angry. I’m angry because I know my country and guys, i’m looking squarely at you. We hate talking about things, don’t we? If we were sitting around having a beer and I said “Hey guys, i’m actually feeling a bit lonely and disconnected from the world at the moment” you would all stare at me like I had two heads. We now also seem to take a kind of sick pleasure in the misfortune of others. Somehow, we have a sense that if that guy is suffering, it makes me feel better. “My life may be bad, but it will never be as bad as John or Julie’s”. Guys, this is not progress. This shows a lack of compassion and will leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled.
As some of you may know, both my brother and I been through an incredible transition over the last we while. It’s been a journey of discovery. We both hit a kind of rock bottom in our lives and have slowly rebuilt them to have more meaning, love and connection and as a result less arrogance, sadness and loneliness. What was the most common advice my brother got along the way? Just get over it. Move on. Put a stake in the ground and just be happy. In other words, shut up about your problems, i’m sick of hearing about it. This is exactly what you shouldn’t do. Listen to your friends. Help those that are clearly struggling. Just listen to them and try and understand them. You don’t need to have all the answers. Actually you don’t need to have any answers. You just need to be there and listen. I get that you would literally rather do anything else than listen to a friend rattle off all of their problems but sometimes that’s all it takes to make a difference.
I can help show you the way. I don’t have all the answers but I can help provide you the tools to live a more meaningful life with more purpose and more love and more connection but you gotta have those conversations. You’ve got to have those tough conversations. You cannot shy away from it as awkward as it may be. And if somebody doesn’t get it then you try again a different way but what you cannot do is give up on the conversation. Act as if your life depends on it, because for some you, that will turn out to be true. I will help show you the way but you have got to change that mindset of “everything is fine”. For 564 people last year, everything was most certainly not fine. In aviation we say that for every accident there is around 360 “near misses” of a similar kind. I would conjecture that suicide is the same. For the 564 people that died last year, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people that aren’t at that point but are hurting really badly all the same. Reach out to them and make a difference.
The ball is in your court guys. Should we try and set another record next year or would it just be easier to have a few uncomfortable conversations and help each other, today?
Finally, if you are struggling with life I want you to know that I will always be here for you. I have got your back. I may not be in the same country as you but I will always have a conversation with you whichever way possible. If you’re an old school friend, a work colleague, a family member or even a follower that I have never met, you can contact me anytime and I promise I will reply to you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you’re really not comfortable speaking to me or the people closest to you, there are angels waiting to hear from you on help lines all around the country.
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Lifeline – 13 11 14
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255