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Simon Oosterman was hoping a friend would be joining him on the Yes We Care roadshow in Timaru.

But just days earlier she took her own life, and instead Mr Oosterman had to place a pair of her shoes among the 606 other pairs, each of which represents a life lost to suicide in the past year.

In support . . . Suicide Trauma Empowering Peer Support group coordinator Vicki Jones attended the Shoe Project event on Thursday. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

“I didn’t know I’d be bringing her shoes,” he said.

Mr Oosterman was in Timaru last Thursday as organiser of the roadshow, a nationwide suicide awareness campaign which is travelling the length of the country.

Seven pairs represent South Canterbury people.

The roadshow, which started in Bluff, has involved organisers collecting and laying out pairs of shoes for every New Zealander lost to suicide in the previous year.

South Canterbury has second-lowest number of suicides per region, but the 606 deaths across the country are horrifying for one South Canterbury suicide awareness advocate.

Suicide Trauma Empowering Peer Support (Steps) group co-ordinator Vicki Jones said while South Canterbury’s seven suicides left the region at the second-lowest in the country, it was “horrifying” to consider the number of self-inflicted deaths was increasing nationwide.

Empty shoes . . . Six hundred and six pairs of shoes were laid out on the corner of Strathallan and Stafford Sts on Thursday, as part of Yes We Care’s suicide awareness shoe project. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

Not every suicide was mental health-related, but putting more money into the mental health system would have a “huge impact” on those it helped.

The chief coroner had relaxed the rules on the reporting of suicides, leading some to blame that openness for an increase in suicides, but Ms Jones said the figures had been rising even before the coroner had relaxed the rules.

She said public awareness and education around how people could listen and support people who were not in good “head spaces” would help those who were contemplating taking their lives.

“[That is] one statistic saved.”

Ms Jones said she started the suicide bereavement group because while there was plenty of support for people who were grieving, suicide was the only death that created such a “ripple effect”.

“That death is not like any other death.”

For help
Lifeline: 0800 543-354
Depression Helpline (8am-midnight): 0800 111-757
Healthline: 0800 611-116
Samaritans: 0800 726-666
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline: 0800 376-633, free-text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz
What’s Up (for 5-18-year-olds; 1pm-11pm): 0800 942-8787
Kidsline (for children up to 14; 4pm-6pm weekdays): 0800 543-754 (0800 KIDSLINE)