This World Suicide Prevention Day, Mike King and the mental health charity The Key to Life Charitable Trust are launching a new study into the final letters or messages left by victims of suicide.
The study is the first of its kind in New Zealand and will look to find practical answers as to why so many New Zealanders are taking their lives, with the aim of using the research to inform future interventions and suicide prevention efforts. For this research to be meaningful, they are hoping to collect 1000 letters or messages.
“Over the course of my work in mental health, many families have shared with me the taonga of reading the final words of their loved ones,” King says. “And, though every note is tragic and unique, I’ve noticed there are a handful of common themes. Families often want to contribute to efforts to help stop the scourge of suicide, as a way to honour their loved ones. We want to honour that wish and create more understanding about suicide in Aotearoa.”
The study will carefully analyse the content of final messages of both suicide victims and volunteers who have survived suicide, in an effort to distil any national trends and triggers.
“It’s a hugely contentious topic and we’re aware that we’ll need to handle the information in the letters sensitively – and of course anonymously – but we believe that there’s real potential to help others struggling in similar situations,” says Kyle MacDonald, psychotherapist and Chair of the Board of The Key to Life Charitable Trust. “We have long known that there is an absence of research of this kind in New Zealand. With the help of families who have lost someone to suicide, we aim to change that.”
Survivors of suicide are also invited to share the thoughts they were having during this particularly challenging time.
Families are being asked to share the final words from their loved ones by uploading a scan to www.1000letters.co.nz, or alternatively emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org, or posting a photocopy of notes to: 1000 Letters, PO Box 91082, Auckland 1142.