The elephant in the room

August 19, 2017

The elephant in the room

Michael Mansfield and partner Yvette Greenway. Photo: Hayley Stevenson.

An English couple who both lost loved ones to suicide will host an open meeting on the silence that surrounds it in Auckland today.

Yvette Greenway and Michael Mansfield have been on a global tour with their campaign the Silence of Suicide (SOS).

Mr Mansfield's daughter Anna took her own life two years ago. Five months before that Ms Greenway lost a childhood friend.

Mr Mansfield, a high-profile barrister who once represented the father of Princess Diana's lover, was a keynote speaker at the Criminal Bar Association Conference in Auckland last weekend.

Today the couple will hold an SOS meeting at the city centre building where the New Zealand Herald is based at 2pm.

Mr Mansfield told Te Waha Nui he was deeply inspired by Herald reporter Olivia Carville’s extensive and in-depth campaign Breaking the Silence.

The couple's campaign was launched at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, England, just two months after Anna died. The idea, originally Ms Greenway’s, was to reach out to others, starting a conversation which may prevent people from taking their lives.

“There are 100 seats at [tomorrow’s] event available . . . we of course would like as many people to come as possible,” said Mr Mansfield.

“It is about the silence of people that are thinking of taking their own lives, the silence that pervades the lives of the bereaved because of course there is no answers when people take their lives and there are no questions," said Ms Greenway.

“The silence that surrounds the word suicide. There is still a reluctance globally to open up about this issue, there is a stigma, a shame and silence – the three esses.

“We are also seeing time and time again that before people take their life they often lull people into a false sense of security and make out as if everything in their life is fine. This was indeed the case with my friend.

“They are so reluctant to talk about it, whether it is because they feel they can’t because no-one will listen or because they don’t want to be talked out of it. For a lot of people they see suicide as the only way out,” said Ms Greenway.

The idea was very simple, Mr Mansfield said. “Get people to talk about it, rather than hold it in. Off load. It’s not pejorative, or judgemental. We don’t say don’t do this or do that.

“We say exchange the pressures in your mind with other people and you will find you are not alone.”

The meeting will not be open to public reporting of any kind. Attendees will be able to speak in confidence.

It will be held from 2pm to 4pm today (Saturday, August 19) in the iHeart Lounge on the ground floor of NZME Central, 2 Graham St, Auckland.

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