He’s arguably one of the most liked and equally disliked people in the country right now. I know reading back on this, that fact might change either way, but as of January 2017, at the beginning of his Presidency and first term…he’s made some very bold and unfavorable moves.
Today is the 240th year of this country that, if you call yourself an American, no matter where you came from, or what you believe, you can celebrate. That’s America. We take in everyone. The Statue of Liberty once stood as a marker of that very creed. Taking in “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” What lady Liberty fails to inform immigrants and refugees is that this freedom doesn’t come without judgement or centuries of deeply ingrained prejudice. No this wont be a post about how much America sucks, or how we could be doing so much better, though we really could. No. Continue reading “July 4th”
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.
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
In case you were under the impression that I am living the good life over here, sipping cocktails, kicking my feet back in the warm, dwindling rays of the New Zealand sunset every week, allow me to pop your bubble. No I’m not donning a hobbit costume, herding sheep through the exquisite mountainside, going on wine tours, vacationing on the weekends, hitting the beach whenever I can, eating at highly rated establishments, or adopting a general “take it easy” mentality.
Let me take you on an eye opening journey through what my life looks like up here and what the reality of the situation looks like.
I wake up. I figure out how I am going to eat, pay for gas, and where I’m gong to live next week. I worry. Yeah, I worry a lot. I pray for continued reliance on God. I pray for peace amidst the chaos. I hope that tomorrow is the day I can stop worrying about finances. I swallow my pride (admission: this is my newest addition to the “things Eric loathes to do”) and asking for help when I can’t do it. I keep myself busy filling out job applications and watching tv shows, reading books, or writing because if I stop for one second, I will think about my family and how much I miss them. I constantly remind myself why I’m here, my calling, and what I sacrificed to get here.
Sound familiar? NZ is no different than any other part of the world when it comes to daily struggles. Pretty mountainsides and golden sunsets don’t buy you food, close a mortgage, resolve a fight with your spouse, keep kids off the street, end injustice, create equality, or stop a kid from putting a gun in his mouth.
You want to know the sad thing? I haven’t seen anything yet. I’m still VERY green to this country, and I will be shocked. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. New Zealand is filled with sadness, pain, suffering, damage, grief, and wrongdoing…And if you thought I came here to escape the problems of America to go and live in a paradise…then you are so far outside of reality, that I can’t help you. It doesn’t matter if you live in Fiji, Hawaii, or Jamaica…brokenness will follow you, because there isn’t a place on this Earth that doesn’t have any.
I realize that I have perpetuated this in the past with only showing photos of the good things I’ve been exposed to in this country. I have since stopped doing that on facebook, but the truth is I can’t even properly display in photo, video, or even text…as I am doing now…the true horrors I am exposed to in New Zealand. Nor would you want to hear about them. The truth exposes things and forces you to step out of what is comfortable. We like comfortability. We like it so much that we have fallen in love with “talking” about things that matter, yet rarely do anything of personal sacrifice. Rarely acting towards “otherness”, rarely REALLY believing in what we talk about.
Still, even someone like myself, who left everything behind to live-out my calling, I found myself asking the important questions, “What am I doing for these people I came here for? How am I living in “otherness?” How am I actually living how Christ called us? Christ became a human being, talked to whores, touched lepers, broke the sabbath and had Sunday lunches with sinners. To live like Christ? This means: Otherness. Pay attention to “others” and love them. Actually DO those things.
Living in New Zealand is not easy, let me make that very clear, and I hope I have. This was not an easy decision to move here, and life here is not glamorous. Let me also make clear that I do not hate living here. The reason I don’t hate living here is that I truly believe in this country and I believe in making a change here. I have committed to New Zealand, and I’m not giving up on her. And though it’s not comfortable, I will continue to force myself to consider the “other” and to love them in my work. This is seeking the kingdom of God. (Matt 6:33), and if anyone does this, God will take care of the rest.
This I needed you to know.
Convicted murderer, high gang affiliations, addiction, domestic violence charges, and theft. I have to admit, I was quite nervous. Still, Te Whakaora Tangata wanted me to interview some people who attend their organization. I had never conducted interviews before, let alone talked for an hour at length with Maori people. What could I say? What couldn’t I say? What would be taboo for me to bring up? Will I insult them? What do I need to know before going into this? These questions and about thirty more were cycling through my head.
For those who didn’t know, for the past 6 months I have been living in New Zealand, working with Maxim Institute. Maxim Institute is not the think tank where they come up with a bunch of ideas for a dirty magazine (sorry if that joke flew over your head), but rather a political think tank where we discuss policy and inform the leaders of the nation about issues that matter. Yeah, it’s been an interesting time. And for those who know me and are like, “Eric? You? Working at a political think tank? Yeah, okay. So what are you actually doing in NZ, common, you can tell me.” Ummm, I don’t know what to tell you. I have been.
I graduate on Thursday and reflecting on what I’ve done here has been bitter/sweet. The beginning of this post was describing the project that I have been working on for the past 4 months. Basically Maxim and Te Whakaora Tangata (an organization that works on the Marae (a sacred meeting place for Maori (the native people of NZ))) have partnered to bring their first placement together in the internships history. Mainly to best take advantage of my specific skills as a Social Worker. What can I say? I’m kindof a big deal.
The day that I applied to the Maxim Institute, they asked me what I was passionate about. I told them that I loved being on the ground floor, helping people in their place of need. TW saw this as an opportunity to do something that they have been meaning to do for some time. They asked me if I could go to the Marae and interview people who have used their services. The object was to hear them out. The opportunity to be heard is a very powerful thing. To be noticed, to feel loved, cared for, and heard…can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, as an organization, it is important to know that you are serving the people in the most effective and efficient way possible. This is done by the very popular and arduous process of research. I was to ask specific, and yet representative people questions about their past, present, and projected future through the work that TW has been doing in their lives. I was beyond excited. This was an opportunity for me to do what I have always wanted to do.
With my mentor Luke helping me through the process, I felt much more confident, as he has done this very thing in Germany 4 years ago. I knew from the start that the interviews would be incredibly helpful for the organization and for myself. I would gain knowledge and understanding about the people and culture, and TW would understand what they are doing well and maybe not so well.
Looking back on the experience now, I could not have been set up with a more perfect fit for my placement. This is Social Work. Helping people where they are at. Not in a cold office with a fluorescent light beating down on you, but on the streets, in their meeting places, in their homes, with their families, seeing the problems they’re facing, understanding their stories, and doing something about it. Social Work requires action, and I feel that my placement allowed me to know more about what that looks like. Now I am left with the question: “So what? What will you do about it?” Honestly, I can’t wait to answer that call, and this placement has given me the confidence to act.
This project was my baby, and tomorrow I present it to the organization, Maxim as well as the Lion Trust. I am excited and hopeful that the results will spur further action to aid the people in the Manurewa area. From here, I go on to bigger and more challenging opportunities in Social Work.
I will continue to live in the Maxim Intern Residence that I’ve been living in, until November, when the new batch of interns move in. There I will be living with the guys that I will be flatting with for the coming years in NZ. I have to say that I am excited for the changes ahead. Change, historically for me, Eric Peterson, doesn’t usually hit me until about 1-2 weeks later. At least not the sad things. So whatever comes, let it come. I’m ready for you.