Empty shoes are being placed on the Church Steps on Thursday, September 7, from 12 noon as a poignant reminder of everyone who has lost their lives to suicide in New Zealand this year.

606 shoes for suicide awareness

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Pairs of empty shoes are making their way around the country symbolising those lost to suicide last year.

Last weekend, 579 pairs of shoes, one for every person who died as a result of suicide in 2016, were set up in Auckland, Invercargill and Whangarei.  On Monday, the latest suicide figures were released revealing that the figure had increased yet again, with 606 people taking their own lives in 2017.

Nelson woman Diane Hall, who lost her husband Jake in 2014, is currently in Timaru helping set up the 606 pairs of shoes.  Diane is supporting the other events throughout the South Island, but for her, the Nelson one is still the important one.

“I’ve finally turned a corner and I’m choosing to be happy and to use this to make change,” she says.

To help others and to help raise awareness, Diane is going to be sharing her story on Thursday.  She says there is still a real taboo about speaking out about suicide, but says it’s important for people to know that “others are there for you.”

The shoe collections comprise eight pairs of children’s shoes, 51 for teenagers, 419 for adults and 101 for older adults.  Seventy per cent of the shoe collections are men’s shoes.

“It’s not okay that so many men are dying – it’s truly sad,” says Diane.

In the Nelson/Marlborough district health region, 24 people died by suicide in 2016.

The shoes are going to finish on Parliament steps on September 10, to mark International Suicide Prevention Day.

Despite this, the events are described as vigils, not protests – with the shoes being the message, not placards.  Individuals holding their loved ones shoes are also encouraged to join the local event.

“It’s about the community coming together to support each other,” says Diane.

Organised by YesWeCare.nz health coalition, they say it’s a simple, effective action that creates a platform for bereaved Kiwis to talk about the change they want to see, specifically for the Government to set a suicide prevention target, and to hold an urgent independent mental health inquiry.

The Nelson event is to be held on Thursday, September 7 from 12 noon on the Church Steps in front of the Christ Church Cathedral.

More information can also be found at facebook.com/Hopewalknelson/ or by searching 579 shoes for suicide awareness (Nelson).