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New Zealand suicide rate, Katy Perry, and the importance of teaching empathy in schools and society
Posted by Phil Walker on 13 Jun 2017

I'd been wanting to write a good blog for quite a while on the terrible suicide rate in New Zealand.  I am actually still waiting for more information I have requested in order to make something more formal and more developed to perhaps go into press release format.  However there have just been a few incidents of the last 3 days which made me feel it was very important just to write a something.

In /may 2015 we witnessed the closure of Relationships Aotearoa.  Ann Tolley irresponsibly closed it down and dispersed many highly vulnerable people to other services at the drop of a hat which could have had huge impacts.  The response she made after she'd done it astounded me in how she told Relationships Aotearoa to 'calm down'.  Like the comical thing you are told in the first day of mental health training to never ever say !!!! For anyone who wants to read my blog I did at the time it is here : http://newbeginningstherapy.blogspot.co.nz/2015/05/

Recently I have been in contact with Lifeline and their Executive director Glenda Schnell.  I was informed of the following statistics in New Zealand: In 2013 there were 125 000 calls to Lifeline.  Out of those between 5-6 daily were at risk of suicide.  Now just think about that for a second.  People phoning on a daily basis who may actually kill themselves because they feel so bad about themselves and their life that they can genuinely see no other way out other than to end it all.

In 2016 there were 1840 calls who were at risk of suicide.  Of these 1368 were able to somehow be settled down and have some kind of recovery plan throughout the call.  432 were however at immediate risk meaning that the police had to be called and the caller needed to be kept on the phone often until police actually arrived due to the threat being that serious.

It was a month or so ago I went to Silo outdoor cinema and saw a great while extremely sad documentary on Amy Winehouse.called 'Amy'.  What struck me as a Counsellor was how she was clearly just a vulnerable woman in need of help.  I so wish I could have helped her through some counselling and really truly believe I could.  Seeing her almost made me see her as an actual child.  So lost and vulnerable and killed by fame.  What also really struck me which it documented well was when she was going through her despair how people responded so terribly to her.  Graham Norton who always struck me as cool kind of guy teased her as did numerous people on different shows.  I mean why?  What had she done that was so bad?  Is it because she was a celebrity she just deserved it or maybe wasn't allowed to feel this way.  Anyone has suffering in their lives.

It was then a few days ago when I saw the shocking while not so surprising article on Katy Perry and her recent distress and the kind of responses people had to it.  Please see the well written article below.

 http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/health/2017/06/opinion-our-shameful-response-to-katy-perry-s-depression-is-part-of-nz-s-mental-health-problem.html

In my view it's pretty great that she is being so open so why all the horrible responses?  Wouldn't it be great if unlike Amy Winehouse she could be someone supported and see as going through a good recovery and healing?  A good representation in the public light of someone dealing with their issues responsibly?  I think so.  Some of the sickening responses are: 'This is hilarious, her hair cut is scary'. 'STUPID BITCH', 'She's say anything to get attention'.

Now as a society where we have such a high suicide rate why do we behave like this?  What does it take us to learn our lesson?  As a Therapist I see empathy is truly being the thing that saves and binds us as humans.  Yes there's always a chance someone could be faking it.  For anyone who knows my work my niche is on people recovering from Narcissists and narcissists feed on empathy.  However when we see someone in distress (with the exception of if someone has done us or the world extremely serious wrong) would it not be good to just have a strong enough sense of ourselves and have the empathy to be able to atleast say: 'Hope you get better soon' or if it is a friend of ours to be able to maybe give a bit of friendly support.

Being empathic to those in distress is fundamental to life.  It's so easy too.  There are courses which teach basic Counselling skills I did when I was a volunteer counsellor many years ago.  I think this kind of teaching mixed in schools would be a wonderful asset.  There is a great book called 'Counselliing skills in everyday life' by Kathryn Geldard which is a great read.  I just checked and you can download the pdf here for free https://latonyarobbinsarch.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/counselling-skills-in-everyday-life-by-kathryn-geldard-david-geldard.pdf

I saw a good post yesterday which would discussing the idea of teaching about mental health education in schools.  For me this is a huge yes considering this dilemma we clearly have.  Here is the link so you can click your vote:
http://w'Www.newshub.co.nz/home/health/2017/06/better-mental-health-education-needed-in-schools-petition.html

As a Counsellor I teach building a compassionate relationship with yourself and then from there to be able to relate well and be compassionate to other people.  We need to be teaching more of this and if we feel a need to behave cruelly really asking ourselves why.  It is cruelty which is pathology is Psychology and studies of Mental Health.  The only thing wrong with Katy Perry and pathological as far as I can see are the pathological responses which attack her human longing for empathy.  The same can be said around the issue of mental health and suicide in New Zealand.

Just to add what actually drove me to write this today was that when I saw a further post today of Katy Perry collapsing on stage a response I saw first on it was 'Who gives a f... about Katy Perry, totally vacuous'.

The point to me seems to just be 'giving a f...' about anyone regardless of who they are.

Here is another blog post I have wrote with a good link on what to do if a friend is suicidal.  Take care

http://newbeginningstherapy.blogspot.co.nz/2017/06/what-to-do-if-friend-is-suicidal.html