My father’s best friend is a mortuary technician. This makes for a predictably dark sense of humour, and some delightful chat – “get better work stories” goes to a whole new level. He has some truly mind-boggling tales, and as a naturally curious person I’ve learnt a lot – more than I probably care to, in retrospect. Most shocking though, by far, was learning the amount of child suicides he works on. Even more shocking was discovering the youngest of those was eight years old.
Let that sink in for a moment.
I don’t know what you were doing at eight years old, but I was blissfully unaware suicide was even a thing. I was a fairly well-read kid, and even in my precocious travels through adult fiction shelves I was yet to stumble across the concept. Truthfully, even now at 31 I struggle to view it as a real concept. Suicide is at once painfully close to home, and entirely foreign to me.
But at eight?
New Zealand has some major issues with mental health, we know that. Slowly but surely, we are opening the conversation and starting to address it. Mid-February, the Auckland recruitment community gathered to discuss mental health in recruitment, and mid-March the Auckland HR community got together to focus on wellbeing at work. In the corporate and professional community, there is a reassuring focus on supporting those riding the waves between Flourishing and Languishing. Same goes for tertiary institutions.
But what about kids?
Last year, 137 young New Zealanders killed themselves and about 3,500 attempted suicide. Hence mental health campaigner Mike King created Gumboot Friday, a fun way for Kiwis to join in the mental health conversation while raising funds to provide free and timely counselling for any kids in need. Government agencies are doing their best, but some kids are stuck waiting up to six months to receive the counselling they so urgently need – and that’s only those we know of. How many others haven’t even tried?
Whether you’ve donned gummies today or not, please support #GumbootUpNZ. 100% of your donation goes to the kids. All donations are deposited directly into the Kiwibank Gumboot Friday account, and that money then goes directly to registered health professionals. This ensures 100% of our money goes directly where it’s needed: to kids getting the help and support they need, when they need it most.
So, no words of recruitment wisdom for you this week sorry, but this is a topic close to home for me, and for many of you too, I’m sure. One message I’ve heard repeated a resounding, astonishing number of times is that we need to talk more: all of us, all the time. After losing a loved one to suicide I was stunned by the silence following. Nobody knows how to talk about this, and that’s largely because we don’t. So let’s start.
You can donate to #GumbootUpNZ here: https://www.iamhope.org.nz/donate
Access mental health information and resources through: Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
If in crisis: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/
Or if you need to talk to someone else, free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.