Quest to raise awareness of suicides in the Highlands
A NEW Zealand woman whose daughter took her own life has praised the work of two Highland groups which aim to provide support and raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide.
Suzy Taylor, who is 53 and lives in Rotorua on the north island, has returned to Inverness for the first time in around 20 years as part of her ongoing research and suicide awareness-raising efforts.
She is hoping to talk to people who have been affected and meet with representatives from both Mikeysline and James’ Support Group – two Highland groups which provide support for those affected by suicide.
According to Mikeysline’s chairwoman Donna Smith, traditionally the Highlands has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK.
Ms Taylor, who has two other daughters and lives with her partner of 10 years, Tony Dick, said New Zealand also had a high suicide rate.
She said she had been following Mikeysline, as well as the Hive project, on Facebook and described it as an initiative which had been created following tragic loss and added: “It’s a fantastic idea – I am sure it gets over-utilised in the current times.”
Ms Taylor said she had also been in communication with representatives from James’ Support Group and added: “This is another great initiative that has come out of two grieving parents and it is my understanding that they meet once a month in Inverness.
“It’s an opportunity for those that are bereaved by suicide to get together and have those conversations that sometimes we possibly can’t have in mainstream society and that would be good to change.”
As part of her trip, she has already visited Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, to further explore why those countries have low suicide rates, before travelling to the Highlands.
Her daughter Georgia MacBeath took her own life at the age of 19 in July 2016 – she had been diagnosed with depression when she was 14 or 15 years old.
When she lost Georgia, Ms Taylor said it was like “a bucket of ice-cold water had been poured over me” but, in the aftermath of the tragedy, there was some positivity when she put all her efforts into raising awareness of the issues surrounding suicide.
She said: “I have been asked to speak to many groups including emergency department staff, community groups and prisons.
“I always say yes if I am able to make engagements and I will basically speak to anyone who will listen. I will shout about suicide if I have to. There is seldom a week that goes by that I don’t get messages and phone calls from friends of friends or complete strangers who tell me they are worried about their son or daughter.”
In August 2017 she completed her 606 pairs of shoes project which saw them laid out starkly in rows, to represent New Zealand’s annual suicide toll, and by September 10 that year, on Suicide Awareness Day, she was stood on the steps of parliament. She said: “Myself and many others got to speak face to face to six different political representatives. Jacinda Ardern [Prime Minister of New Zealand] joined us and spoke of her own experience with suicide loss.”
She said the aim was to get the government to commit to an independent mental health inquiry and, when she became Prime Minister, Miss Ardern promised this would happen.
They briefly lived in Inverness during 1999 and 2000 to be near her former partner’s family and she was looking forward to her return.
While she is here she is hoping to meet and interview anyone who feels they have something to say about suicide.
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