One of the saddest sights seen in this country was the 579 pairs of shoes arrayed on Parliament’s lawn.

Each pair belonged to a New Zealander who found life such a burden they killed themselves.

That was bad enough but the latest toll is even worse – 606 Kiwis committed suicide in 2016-17, according to the Chief Coroner.

Those in their 20s and early 40s are the most heavily represented in the dismal statistics.

And Maori continue to have the highest suicide rate of all ethnic groups – the 130 deaths in the last year representing 21 percent of the total.

But no age group or sector is immune, from teenagers who may be being bullied to highly successful professionals overwhelmed by their life situation.

Moana New Zealand, the largest Maori-owned fishing company, to its great credit has decided to do something about lifting suicide awareness and assisting its staff.

The company has enlisted mental health advocate Mike King to speak to staff about mental health and help remove the stigma around the issue.

He began his road show in Coromandel on Tuesday and will also attend Wellington (Nov 7), Auckland (Nov 8) and Kaeo in Northland (Nov 13).

His talks followed by questions and answers will include the difficulty of recognising depression and the triggers to what helps and treatments.

His message is that while feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, depression is much more than the temporary blues.

Clinical depression is a serious mood disorder that makes it tough to function and enjoy life.

Symptoms include apathy, unrelenting despair, hopelessness, loss of energy, concentration problems and changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

“Our people are the life force of our company and we want to give them a safe place to listen, talk and connect, along with comprehensive follow up resources and plans to keep on track,” Moana chief executive Carl Carrington said.

He said Moana’s people work hard for themselves and their families and their mental wellbeing can be affected by the nature of their job – for example, being away from home fishing for extended periods.

“With one in six New Zealand adults diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives, the fact that our young people and teens have the worst suicide rates in the world, and that Maori and Pacific people are over-represented in mental health statistics, we’ve got to do something.

“For us, it’s about showing manaaki (care) for our kaimahi (workers) and their whanau. We want to make a difference for our people and help create more resilient communities by having an open discussion around mental wellness at work, home and in the community.”

Moana’s move is doubly timely if a survey of Australian fishermen released yesterday by Deakin University in Victoria is anything to go by.

Fishermen are haunted by depression and stress, the nationwide survey of 1000 registered commercial fishermen found.

The rate of depression was found to be almost double the national average.

Uncertainty in the industry caused by the threat of rapid closures, politicised fisheries management and sudden changes that affected their livelihoods were identified as factors, according to lead research Dr Tanya King.

She said there was great awareness of the stresses of living on the land and being a primary producer but fishers did not get that recognition.

“Australians don’t culturally value fishers like we venerate farmers,” she said.

Does any of that sound familiar?


Where to go if you need help:

*Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

*Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

*Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

*Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

*Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)