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A subject no longer taboo

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One of the most poignant and sobering displays Wairarapa people are ever likely to see will be on show today.

Almost 600 pairs of empty shoes are to be displayed in Masterton’s town square representing the many New Zealanders lost to suicide each year.

Earlier this week the Times-Age reported on the upcoming display and spoke to some very brave women, two mothers and a grandmother, whose lives had been deeply affected by youth suicide.

They belong to a network supporting families in Wairarapa touched by suicide and to bring focus to World Suicide Prevention Day.

The women were helping to put together the shoe display along with sourced personal stories and letters from affected family and friends of those who suicided.

For generations past suicide was regarded as a taboo subject, this taboo unfortunately being supported in some ways by legal restraints on using the word.

But that has thankfully lifted as it is patently clear sweeping the subject under the carpet didn’t help matters at all and only served to suppress both information and education on suicide.

I suspect it even suppressed the ability of families to grieve properly.

As one of a family that thankfully has not been directly touched by suicide I cannot profess to understands its root causes, if there are such things.

But it is not difficult to understand the upset and heartache suicide causes those who remain behind, especially when the life lost is of a young person seemingly with much to offer the world and whose future was before him or her.

The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is communication which is not only apt but given the previous history of how the subject was treated is telling indeed.

The co-ordinator of the Masterton Town Square display Toni Ryan, who lost her 16-year-old son Sam to suicide about five years ago, got it right this week when she said the main point she wanted to get across is that had she then known more about suicide she “unequivocally and wholeheartedly” believes Sam would still be alive.

For those who want to share in the awareness of suicide they can by visiting the display today at the square anytime between 9am and 5pm.

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