"We need leaders who will make mental health a top priority, not an after thought."

Maggie | queer rights and mental health activist | Te Whanganui a Tara

TW: suicide

I have always been an advocate of voting, wanting to elect leaders who make changes that I wanted to see in the community but it never really clicked with me emotionally until I saw the pairs of shoes.

606 pairs of shoes laid across the parliament lawn, each representing a person we have lost to suicide in the past year, an increase from 579 people the year before. I knew the statistics but seeing a physical representation made me truly realise the enormity of our problem.

Just to give you an idea of how many people that is, your average 100 level lecture hall is filled with say, 100 people. That’s 6 times the amount of people in that class. Next time you’re sitting in class, think about that figure and perhaps you will feel the same way I did.

These are the children, parents, colleagues and friends that the mental health system has failed, because they couldn’t properly access the support they so desperately needed. The system that is so overworked and underfunded that it can make a person doubt if they’re “bad enough” to be seen, not wanting to use up the systems limited resources.

I see it every day, amongst the people I volunteer with; the ones that work above and beyond, to meet the increasing demand for support by the people we work with and other organisations. Loving the work we do, but being so burnt out, the volunteers (often the majority), are having to choose between doing the work that they cherish or trying to survive, often juggling both.

We need leaders who will make mental health a top priority, not an after thought; that recognise the work that mental health organisations do to support our community and uplifts them, not leaving them scrabbling for funding. Leaders that will work towards challenging the stigma of mental health, not shying away from it.

We can’t sit idly by anymore whilst this is happening in our community. Our people are dying and we need to make a change and vote for someone who will stand together with us.

Support: If you or someone else is struggling with thoughts of suicide, here are some places you can call.

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234

Lifeline - 0800 543 354

Depression helpline – 0800 111 757


Disclaimer: This blog is a platform for students to voice their views and opinions to encourage healthy and non-abusive discussion.  The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations.

Author: Jessica Reeves