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Ride to save lives


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You can’t catch suicide.

And Featherston’s Mark Shepherd is doing all he can to make that known.

Featherston Community Board member Mark Shepherd is coordinating a Wairarapa motorcycle ride raising awareness of teen suicide. PHOTO/FILE
Featherston Community Board member Mark Shepherd is coordinating a Wairarapa motorcycle ride raising awareness of teen suicide. PHOTO/FILE

He is the Wairarapa coordinator of Riders Against Teen Suicide (RATS), and will be drawing in motorcyclists from around New Zealand to take part in a Wairarapa event marking World Suicide Prevention Day next month.

A total of 579 Kiwis lost their lives through suicide last year, according to coronial findings.

“And we’ve lost at least 10 here in the last 12 months,” Mr Shepherd said.

“But people just don’t want to talk about it.

He said some DHBs tended to “hide away” from the statistics, “but we’re very lucky because ours is getting in behind [raising awareness].”

The Wairarapa District Health Board is facilitating a suicide awareness event at Farriers car park, Masterton, on Saturday, September 9 – the day before World Suicide Prevention Day.

Dozens of RATS riders are expected to attend, raising awareness of suicide and encouraging suicide prevention initiatives.

“We’ve got people coming from all over the country – it’s awesome,” Mr Shepherd said.

“They’re coming from right up from Cape Reinga, from Christchurch, Dunedin, we’ve got a group coming across from Manawatu as well.

“There could be 80 bikes, there could be 250, but we’re getting more and more groups saying they’re interested.”

He said the riders were successful at raising awareness because they were more conspicuous than “someone wandering along the street with a banner – nobody’s going to look at them”.

“But if you’ve got 50 motorbikes coming through, everyone is going to look and see what’s going on.”

Mr Shepherd, who is a member of the Featherston Community Board, said the biggest obstacle to overcome for suicide awareness was that “people don’t want to talk about it”.

“There’s a saying among us, you can’t catch suicide, so why don’t people want to talk about it?

“The two things we’re finding is that people think they are alone when they are in that dark place, and, if they want to talk about it, they don’t know who to talk to.”

The RATS team will be at Featherston Youth Centre at midday on September 9, and Farriers carpark from 1:15pm – 2:15pm.


Suicide myths


Where to get help

These 24/7 free phones are operated by trained counsellors who can help you talk through problems and identify ways of coping.

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 54 (0800 KIDSLINE) supporting under 18-year-olds
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234
  • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (supports 5-18-year-olds, 1pm-11pm)
  • Women’s Refuge Crisis Line 0800 733 843
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 depression.org.nz
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666
  • Healthline : 0800 611 116
  • Outline NZ 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) sexuality and gender identity issues
  • Suicide crisis helpline 0508 82 88 65


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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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