The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

A Beautiful Land With Troubles Hidden In The Shadows…
June 25, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Comment, New Zealand

I really enjoy living in New Zealand.

It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people.

And the generosity shown towards me and my family is bordering on breath-taking.

But it’s not perfect.

The image the World has from the outside is not quite what is going on in the inside.

There’s huge inequality.

There’s a big chasm between different cultures.

There’s massive limitations on how youth can express themselves.

And while there are some genuinely good programs – and many, many brilliant people – in place to try and bridge that gap, it exists and it’s surprising how little is talked about it.

One thing that has genuinely shocked me is the attitude towards suicide.

Specifically youth suicide.

Per capita, it has one of – if not the worst – record in the World.

More people die because of suicide here than die in car crashes.

Let that sink in for a second.

And what makes this statistic even more shocking is the attitude that you can’t – or shouldn’t – talk about it. Not openly.

Hell, the media even have restrictions on being able to report it.


Apparently the belief is reporting stories on people who have died because of suicide could encourage more people to do the same.

No … that is seriously what is being claimed.

And even if that were true – which it isn’t – the fact remains New Zealand is already number 1 or 2 in the World [depending on the year] for youth suicide so that means that approach isn’t working so maybe the focus should be on understanding and dealing with the issues that encourage this to happen rather than brush it under the carpet as if it will all go away on it’s own.

What makes this even more insane for me is the government have shown – through its actions in terms of COVID and terrorism – that open dialogue is an incredibly powerful way to gain knowledge, strength and an ability to heal.

OK, so this terrible situation has been happening for way longer than the current government have been in power – and I love Jacinda – but you’d think if anyone would tackle this issue with humanity, openness and compassion, it would be the current PM and her government.

From my early observations, there are some major issues for youth here.


A lack of options and opportunity.

A society that – because of its distance and smaller economic power [due to its relatively low population] – can grow old rather than grow up.

Which all means youth are left with a few options.

1. Conform.
2. Escape.

While conforming is probably not that appealing [is it ever for younger generations?] escape has its issues too.

In the past, one of the ways people expressed this was their ‘OE’ … their overseas experience, where they would go to different countries around the world for adventure. But with COVID having put a stop to all that, we now have a generation who see a future that has – for all intents and purposes – either had the brakes placed on it or been mapped out for them.

Now you could argue all youth face this, and maybe they do, but being part of a small population … about as far away from everyone else as you can get … with less overseas investment than other nations [for reasons detailed above] … means life for many young adults here has less choice, change or opportunity than people in other countries get.

And while you may not think that should matter or you think there is enough here for anybody to be happy … when you’re young and the internet lets you can see the possibilities other youth in other countries are able to enjoy each and every day, the feelings of isolation – physically, mentally and emotionally – that lie within become exponentially intensified.

You may write that off as entitlement.

But it’s not.

It’s a slow crushing of hope.

At an age where you should see everything as possible, for some in NZ, the opposite is true. But you are meant to still be grateful for it because you’re in beautiful NZ – which IS beautiful in more ways than just landscape – but when you’ve grown up here, you might not recognise it because to you, it’s just normal.

It’s an issue that needs discussing.

It’s an issue that needs attitudinal change.

And even if some people want to kid themselves suicides aren’t happening – instead choosing to believe a disproportionate amount of NZ youth just happen to die young – the reality is if they don’t deal with it, then the future of the whole country will be affected.

Youth will leave for their ‘overseas experience’ and just not come back.

Youth will choose alternative lifestyles to embrace and follow.

Youth will see gangs as offering a more exciting future than the one they have.

And while I could be accused of scaremongering, the reality is six hundred and fifty four people died of suicide last year and with few talking about it – or able to talk about it – it may communicate to those in fragile positions, that their country doesn’t care about whether they live or die or count.

I appreciate someone who has not been in the country for long should probably keep their opinions to themselves. I also appreciate this could be read at someone complaining about a country that has very kindly let his family come here to live.

But neither of these views would be right.

I say this because I love this country.

I say this because I am grateful to this country.

I say this because I’ve met people who I know care deeply about this issue.

I say this because NZ has its shit together on so many things the rest of the World need to learn from and follow.

I say this because I want NZ to prosper and grow and believe youth have the ability to help make that happen if they’re allowed to explore and express their ideas – good and bad.

I say this because I’ve lived in many different countries and the situation here is unlike anything I’ve seen, bar maybe China in 2007.

I say this because 654 people died by suicide last year.

Six hundred and fifty four.

I love you NZ, but we need to deal with this tragedy, not pretend it doesn’t exist.

21 Comments so far
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Seems you’re going to get kicked out of another country.

Comment by DH

But that suicide behaviour is seriously fucked up.

Comment by DH

Thanks for your support Dave, hahaha.

Comment by Rob

I had heard NZ had a terrible suicide statistic, but I didn’t realise it was this bad or handled this confusingly. I hope people in NZ who read understand your reason for writing it. To me its clear, but people can get funny when others talk about their homeland.

Comment by George

Thanks for putting in words what I can’t say out loud.

Comment by Silent Kiwi

Pleasure. But my goal is for everyone to be able to talk about it … not to cause destruction, but to actually try to start making things better for those suffering – including their families – and NZ as a whole.

Comment by Rob

If anyone reads this other than someone trying to make a positive difference, the problem is with them, not you. Well said and well written Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

people can be dicks.

Comment by andy@cynic

How can talking about this terrible situation be seen as a bad thing to do?

Comment by Mary Bryant

I know Mary, I know …

Comment by Rob

A beautifully written, confronting piece Rob. But you write it with real sensitivity and an obvious appreciation of all NZ has to offer so I hope people see that rather than read it as judgement.

Comment by Pete

With all the countries you’ve lived, this is something New Zealanders can’t just dismiss as uneducated opinion. I am sure many people there have the same opinion but you may be the only one who has the openness to talk about it. Tough reading.

Comment by Bazza

Sometimes it takes a newcomer to point out that which incumbents choose not to see. And to point out that the focus should be on how you talk about something rather than worrying about whether you should.

Comment by John

You’re a beautiful man Robbie.

Jem xox

Comment by Jemma King

Hey Rob. I sent your post to a Kiwi mate in Auckland to see what he thought having recently moved back, it really resonated. He mentioned isolation is a big thing, with young farmers and people in smaller towns with limited opportunities – but that it’s always been seen as a massive challenge to address those issues with the distances involved and disparate resources.

He also mentioned his company is sponsoring Mates in Construction which is a suicide prevention group. Might be worth looking at.

Comment by Alex

In the last hour, Charlie, my 19 year old, heard one of his uni drama buddies took their own life just yesterday. We have to talk about suicide. It’s killing our children.

Comment by Angela Watson

I’ve lost 3 direct family members from suicide. Jacinda annoyed me by saying she wants a zero suicide rate. She doesn’t understand. It’ll never be zero, indescribable pain is indescribable pain. I agree with you Rob, we need to talk about it and dramatically reduce the rates, protect the younger sufferers first. I’ve also experienced the courts muzzling the media who wanted to report responsibly about this issue. Parents wanted to talk about their boy who had died. The DHB tried to say it was a cluster to avoid their poor service and managed to halt the publication of their story. I’d set up a government action group that only has people who have lost someone to suicide. 99.9% of the time there is a way forward.

Comment by Glen Senior

I have lived in New Zealand since 2011 and consider myself and my three teenagers lucky, but you nail the hidden problem here. I have always said that our country is picture postcard perfect but there is no challenge for the young. It is so perfect that for many young people that creates boredom, nothing to fight for, nothing to be passionate about after all isn’t passions at it’s height in the young. I’m encouraging my eldest boy (16) to go into the armed forcers, see the world, learn what it is to fight for good, challenge himself and ultimately live, not die slowly here with a problem that no-one will talk about. Thanks for writing about it.

Comment by Sharon

Angela … Glen … Sharon … thank you so, so much for sharing your perspectives and hard realities. As I said, this is a wonderful country and my passion for this is to help it be even better rather than poke and point. But as you also said, the silence is not helping – it’s contributing – and your words encourage me to just keep asking questions because the reality is there is no appropriate answer for the approach that has been adopted and pushed by people in positions of power and responsibility.

Comment by Rob

You’re right on the money! Isolation and lack of opportunities – Let’s spend more on our children’s schooling and education and expand their prospects in this world. Stop spending on stupid misguided projects that don’t offer any material value for future generations. We often have very narrow view of the world and overestimate how well we are doing!
We also have the highest levels of child abuse in Aotearoa, possibly due to related underlying social issues.

Comment by Evangelia Henderson

Thank you so much for your words and additional insight. It’s a hugely complicated issue made worse by people just not talking about it. Hopefully this will start that, I intend to be an irritant until it is.

Comment by Rob

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