This is One Year

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At 5 AM today, one year ago, I arrived in my 747 jet airplane over the long white cloud of New Zealand. I was greeted by my very patient friend, Corbin Elliott, and taken to a parking meter. I remember smelling the air. The air had a thin cripsness, filled with, for lack of a better word, purity I had not inhaled before. Was this a magical land, or was I just creating things in my mind? The sun was coming up and I didn’t even care that I had just spent almost 20 hours walking, waiting, sitting, flying, walking, waiting, and sitting again…I was here…I was home.

At least this would become my home over the next days, weeks, months, and hopefully years that I would be staying here. I wouldn’t know it after I stepped off the plane, but I was about to embark on the most trying, testing, shaping, and beautiful journeys I have ever faced in my entire adult life.

This year has been one monument to faith after the next. Faith in what is possible, what is obtainable, and what is good. I have seen oceans, beaches, cities and forests. Mountains, towns, rivers, and villages. I’ve seen suns set and suns rise. (Metaphorically as well). I’ve seen an entire country of beautiful people. People who invite you into their home, greet you as their own. People who have a deep pride in their country, yet don’t take themselves too seriously. People that you want to spend the rest of your life knowing and understanding because the you know the payoff is going to be something huge. I’ve seen pure joy as well as absolute disparity. I’ve seen the dichotomy within New Zealand; the need and yet the hesitance…the bliss and yet the complete sadness…the masks we wear. I’ve seen doubt within myself manifest into thankfulness, confusion transforming into laughter, sadness blossoming into true euphoria. New friends came, old friends kept, family loved, family missed. How do you properly sum up what happened in a year? You’ll have to take my word. It was life changing.

To all my friends that I have failed to keep steady communication with over the 12 months I’ve been in NZ, I am sorry. I was much better doing this in person, as I tend to be traditional in this regard. I urge you to start a line of communication with me if you feel like it, I don’t mind at all, and it makes me glad to see how your lives are going. To those who have been writing to me whether on facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, FaceTime calls, texts, and yes, letters, I thank you. You have made life 8,000 miles away much less distant.

If you want to see my year summed up in social media, I have linked my Instagram page, which I created after I moved to NZ, so everything I’ve taken on my Instagram up until this point has been a slice of my life here. Also, I’ve linked my year on Facebook, which is a little summary of the 20 biggest moments that happened to me over the year.

I guess the last thing that I want this blog to be about is thanking you, the person reading this. I started this blog with NO intention to have such a wide audience. I made the blog website in my room, during college, while I was procrastinating a test I was supposed to be studying for. I wrote for no one but myself. It was cathartic and therapeutic. Years later I would get “Freshly Pressed,” by WordPress and I suddenly found myself writing for people in India, Columbia, France, Russia, and you. I write because I love to, but also because it is a door. My website is a door that my mom, sisters, dad, brother in laws, and friends can enter and feel connected to me. With the few things I can give to them, and you, due to distance, I can give you this. So Thank You. It’s been one heck of a year. Time to look forward.

Wegweiser mit 2013 und 2014

Suicide in New Zealand: The Story They Don’t Want Public

You’ve heard me say it before. New Zealand currently has one of the highest youth suicide rates out of all the countries in the OECD. Still, suicide, and talking about suicide, is Taboo in New Zealand. People don’t like to talk about it…more than in the U.S. Further than that, in NZ…you can’t talk about it.

If you are a citizen in New Zealand, then it is not news to you that if a sibling, parent, relative, spouse, or friend commits suicide, you CAN NOT disclose ANY information about the suicide for fear that the action will result in a “copy-cat” suicide and encourage other potential victims to kill themselves. It’s against the law in NZ to go against this. Yeah. You can be prosecuted if you talk to the media about it, write a blog about someones suicide, or print about it in the paper exposing the details.

Not only was this completely shocking to me, but it furthermore drove me to anger. Those left to grieve after the suicide are unable to talk about much of anything regarding what happened to their loved one without the Coroners permission. According to The Coroners Act of 2006:

“If a coroner has found a death to be self-inflicted, no person may, without a coroner’s authority or permission under section 72, make public a particular of the death other than

  • (a)the name, address, and occupation of the person concerned; and
  • (b)the fact that the coroner has found the death to be self-inflicted.”

I learned about this Act by having a one-on-one chat with Maria Bradshaw, CEO and founder of CASPER, a Suicide Prevention organisation created after her son died from, according to the Coroner, “self-inflicted causes.” Angered by not being able to talk about her son, she challenges the “research” done on the topic of media influence on suicide here.

With the research that I did on the subject, there were many professionals in both camps of the issue. On the side advocating that bringing up the topic of suicide/doing media pieces on suicides is detrimental, this is said:

“Graphic representation of suicides, pictures of spots and the method adopted are often the trigger.” (The Times of India)

“…the way the media presents stories on suicide can have a direct influence on the public’s perception of suicide and its related mental health issues.” (Australian Psychological Society)

“…the greater the amount of coverage of suicide in the media, the greater the increase in suicide rate.” (Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health)

And yet, on the other side, experts have this to say:

Chief coroner MacLean said the current restrictions were based on fear of copycat deaths, but he did not believe this was a significant factor in New Zealand.” (nzherald)

“A healthy person talking about a suicide or being aware of a suicide among family or friends does not put them at greater risk for attempting suicide. And mere exposure to suicide does not alone put someone at greater risk for suicide.” (SAVE)

“Talking about suicide can only decrease the likelihood that someone will act on suicidal feelings. There is almost no risk that raising the topic with someone who is not considering suicide will prompt him/her to do it.” (Canadian Mental Health Association)

“There is no research evidence that indicates talking to people about suicide, in the context of care, respect, and prevention, increases their risk of suicidal ideation or suicidal behaviours.” (Crisis Center, British Columbia)

While others are seeing the middle ground:

“Some studies find significant increases in suicide after a widely publicized suicide story, while other research finds no effect.” (Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health)

“It’s important to talk about it, but rather than suicide details, media reports could mention how to reach for help.” (Dr. Lakshmi)

According to Australian Psychological Society, “Media reporting (of suicide) can be very helpful, but I think it is also critical (to report) on how the tragedy has impacted on other people – and what was going on that led to the suicide” (Gregor, 2004). Gregor continues to say that it is how we report these stories rather than solely that we report them, that effects suicide rates.

“Psychologists have an important role to play in assisting the media with its coverage of suicide. It is important to ensure that journalists are made fully aware of the potential influence such coverage can have on a depressed person who may, or may not, already be having suicidal thoughts. In their dealings with the media on such issues, psychologists should:

Raise awareness of the mental health issues that so often contribute to suicide, highlighting the treatments and alternatives to suicide;

Encourage use of language that does not glamorise or sensationalise suicide, or present suicide as a solution to problems;

Advise the journalist to avoid explicit details of the method or location of any particular suicide;

When commenting on the suicide of a celebrity, advise the journalist to seek comment on the wastefulness of the act (an air of tragedy coupled with the celebrity’s new “legendary” status can add a perceived glamour and attraction to a vulnerable adolescent);

Provide information on support services and help line contacts (for example, SANE Helpline, Kids Help Line, Lifeline, and the APS referral service), including telephone numbers and any other contact details, so these can be included in the media report.

Finally, should you see an example of irresponsible journalism, contact the media outlet.”

I love this perspective of the entire issue, because it is only through education and “normalizing” suicide that teens can know who to talk to, where to go for help, and realize that they are NOT the only person going through what they are going through. Furthermore, education helps those people involved in that persons life to recognize the signs of suicide and know where to point the person showing those signs.

Reform is desperately needed with how we approach suicide in New Zealand; Research, education, advocation, implementation of policy, law reform, program creation, referring families, as well as not just prescribing medications without marrying that with counselling services. Too many teens and adolescents have died due to improper practice by psychologists, or counsellors. Throwing medication at problems without guiding the patient and following up with them can cause misuse of medications, and even worsen the depression. Practitioners MUST use research to find what works best instead of either: Doing what is current because it’s current, or doing what has worked in the past simply because it worked in the past.

The answer is NOT sweeping the problem under the mat and forgetting about it. To decrease rates of suicide, we need to provide resources and support, not isolate those who have experienced this tragedy. Reform is expected regarding rules around media reporting of suicide in NZ early 2014 by the law commission. I can only hope that this country starts using “Best Practice” to treat issues around suicide rather than just what has worked in the past.

A recent article on suicide was published by The New Zealand Herald recently. I recommend reading it. It’s both good, bad, and slightly encouraging. If you made it this far, thank you. This is close to my heart, and something I get very passionate about. Please be informed, as this is not an individual problem, but a shared national tragedy. Thank You.

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References:

Bradshaw, M. (2013) Copycat Suicide. CASPER. Retrieved from http://www.casper.org.nz/copycat-suicide

Coroners Act 2006. New Zealand Legislation. Retrieved from http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2006/0038/latest/DLM377809.html

Crisis Centre. FAQs about suicide. Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia. Retrieved from http://www.crisiscentre.bc.ca/get-help/frequently-asked-questions-about-suicide/#2

Experts: Images, details trigger copycat suicides. (Jul 31, 2013) Times of India. Retrieved from http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-31/chennai/40913991_1_copycat-suicides-third-floor-dr-lakshmi-vijaykumar

Gregor, S. (August, 2004) Copycat suicide: The influence of the media. Australian Psychological Society. Retrieved from http://www.psychology.org.au/Content.aspx?ID=1830

McCracken, H. (2013) Suicide rates rise for women, drop for men. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11114600

Mindframe Media and Mental Health (MMMH) Project; Mental Health Branch, Department of Health and Aged Care; and The Australian Press Council.

Preventing suicide. (2010) Canadian Mental Health Association. Retrieved from http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/preventing-suicide/#.UlXhpBaofkY

Suicide and depression. (2013). SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). Retrieved from http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=705c8cb8-9321-f1bd-867e811b1b404c94

Stack, S. (2003) Media coverage as a risk factor in suicide. J Epidemiology Community Health ;57:238-240 doi:10.1136/jech.57.4.238

A New Zealand-Sized Update

Hello everyone, and greetings from New Zealand. It’s raining here quite heavily, and thought this would be a good time to finally update you on my progress here. A lot has happened since my last update, and I feel that I have failed to clue you in. This is partially due to my laptop failing on me, and partially because I have been very busy.

First on the update: I have been accepted to the Maxim Internship. For all my American friends, this is not what you may think, and I do not work for the magazine. Let me make that quite clear, ha. The Maxim Institute features a very prestigious internship in the summer months (December-Feb), and then a semeser internship (March-July). The internship is esentially a ‘think tank’ that “produces research and informed analysis of contemporary issues; develops and promotes sound public policy; and communicates research findings and policy initiatives to the decision-makers and leaders of today.” (http://www.maxim.org.nz/about_us/overview3.aspx).

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The view from the Intern house

Second: Now that I am in the internship, I live in the 69825_10151495022459684_1375784229_nintern house that Maxim has provided for us. The house is on the North end of Wattle Bay, and comfortably fits me and the other 5 interns. The internship is a communal experience and also includes lectures and practical experience. I have been blessed to experience the internship due largly in part to the extremely generous donations by alumni and other donors. I am reminded everyday of the incredible opportunity I have to create change here in this country. I only hope that this internship can prepare me for working with this country’s people in a compitent and lasting way. The outside views from the intern porch also continue to remind me of God’s incredible creation and force me to take a break every once and a while, stop, and reflect. Always important I think.

About the Maxim Institute internship from Maxim Institute on Vimeo.

In the internship, I will be working with an organization named, “Te Whakaora Tangata,” which is the same organization that I have been volunteering with every other Saturday in Clendon. With them, I will be spending time with the people in that area, helping them, and providing services. In doing this, I will hopfully then be able to record their stories, and fulfill the need of someone hearing them and listening to them. By recording their stories, we can become better at what we do and thus offer more efficient services. Also, I feel it is an increbile service to listen to someone who feels invisible to the listening ears of their society. I can’t wait to get started, and in fact, I am quite eager to finally begin engaging.

Like I have stated before, I will be attending this internship until July, and then I will be looking for work in NZ as well as a flat to live in.

That will be all of the current updates about me at this point. I hope it hasn’t been too boring. Any prayers being sent my way would give me much joy. I love and miss you all and I pray that you will continue to work in making the area where you live into a much better place for everyone.

Eric Peterson

Already There

I had a transformative experience in my car the other day. As most of you know, I am on my way out to New Zealand, and this Monday at 2:15pm, I fly out to my new home.

Yesterday, I was in my car. I was driving back from an errand that I was running and the radio was on. I like the radio and I frequent many different stations. When I want news, I typically turn to NPR. When I want a great mix of songs, I turn to XRT 93.1. When I want some uplifting songs and I need some God in my life, and who doesn’t…I turn to 88.7 Air1.

Yesterday I needed to hear something uplifting, which I try to get daily because it feels so good. The song “Already There” by Casting Crowns was playing. Now, usually, I don’t listen to much Casting Crowns. Not sure why, but I don’t. As I listened to this new song by Casting Crowns, I began to feel something move in me. The chorus to this song is so powerful and so moving, and I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this way about a song.

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there.
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there.

My life is drastically changing. There is PLENTY of excitement and joy for that. Yet, I can admit that I am scared. I am nervous. I have NO IDEA what my life is going to look like. The uncertainty is unnerving. The waiting is exhausting. Worry, doubt, fear, and anxiety flood my mind and I desperately seek for God. And God answered. Even if he answers in a song, he still answers. The words in this song overwhelmed me and rushed peace into my lungs.

God is already there.

This link is the artist explaining his song and the meaning behind the creation of it. It’s 1:30, Watch it to understand what I was talking about above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W99gAQ_FRzY&t=2m35s

Here is the actual song:

BADALA: An Encouraging Difference

Chances are good that you have never heard of BADALA, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have. BADALA could very well be the most refreshing and encouraging difference being made in the lives of Africans that I have ever had the pleasure to discover.

BADALA is a company started by the highly motivated and driven Joelle McNamara. She started BADALA when she was only 17 years old, and by the time she graduated high school, the mere idea of BADALA was already a non-for-profit working to create change in the lives of children and widows across Nairobi, Kenya, and Rwanda. To quote the BADALA website:

“In Africa, when a woman is divorced or widowed and left with children, she has few options. Her avenues for income are often insufficient and socially unacceptable. Many women are forced to re-marry quickly, steal, prostitute themselves, or become beggars. Our microeconomic program seeks to provide an alternative to these methods of income to single mothers in impoverished communities by training and hiring them to make fair trade items.”

BADALA, which stands for “instead” in Swahili, is creating opportunities for these women to release themselves from the prisons of their circumstance. To quote Joelle McNamara, “BADALA is giving these women opportunities ‘instead’ of prostitution, begging, abuse, etc.” At only 24 years young, Joelle and her team are doing much more than your average philanthropist. They are acting on all the thoughts that have run through our minds:

“People are dying by the millions just because they don’t have enough to eat. Half the world’s children are sick because they don’t have access to clean water.”

The difference between us and Joelle is that Joelle knew that even one person is capable of changing lives half-way across the world. Joelle is truly a one of a kind visionary that doesn’t come around every day. With the BADALA team working towards real change in Africa, and the results being clearly seen with updates and increased inventory for the website, Joelle and the BADALA team give real motivation for other dreamers who hope to create real change in the world, but feel that they are just one person.

Joelle travels to Africa with her husband Corey, more frequently than most, to exercise her devotion and true passion for the cause. This month she traveled to Nairobi & Tanzania and will be there, working with the women of BADALA.

You can join BADALA and make a true difference by donating to the cause here: https://www.stayclassy.org/checkout/donation?eid=19955. You can also learn more about BADALA’s cause and what they are about at their website: http://www.badala.org/ also check out the merchandise that the women in Africa are making here: http://www.badala.org/collections/frontpage