Last Friday I was in the main street of Kaikohe bright and early aboard my Triumph along with a group of other riders intending to ride several hundred kilometres south. So far, so fun – there are few things I would rather do on a clear Autumn day than to go riding with like-minded people.
The serious part of the equation was in the purpose of the ride, which was to raise public awareness and discussion about suicide in New Zealand, and particularly youth suicide. The Green Ribbon campaign has organised similar events throughout this year, and more R.A.T.S rides and other events are planned.
I was genuinely shocked to hear of the number of suicides happening in New Zealand – almost 550 in the last year alone, about 30% of these being in the 15 – 24 year old age bracket. My (obviously naive) guess would have been that these tragic events would be counted in the dozens, not hundreds. We lose many more people to suicide that to deaths on the road.
Some of those who succumb are young people who have been victims of abuse, bullying, or some other harm, and we can and must work to better protect our young people, to get them some relief before they lose hope. We also know however that no-one is immune, that some victims are from caring and loving families, have enjoyed success in what they do, and should be full of hope and excitement rather than despair.
There is no simple explanation or solution, the problem is complex and multi-faceted. I am convinced that a thoughtful and inclusive programme of informing and engaging people and communities in conversation is a necessary part of reducing this ongoing tragedy.