Opinion: Barry Soper


There’s nothing that stops you in your tracks like when you hear that someone you knew as a healthy, successful individual has suddenly died.

That’s what happened yesterday when Newstalk ZB cut into its programme with the breaking news that TVNZ broadcaster Greg Boyed had died in Switzerland, where he was on holiday with his wife and young son.

Many of us who have worked with Greg over the years were numb and then his courageous family put out a statement saying he’d been battling depression for many years, a silent disease that is rarely discussed. But it should be.

Too many of us know of someone who has been consumed by it and have ended it all.

It brought back memories of a close friend of mine, also a former journalist, who’d gone on to become a very successful businessman who took his life several years ago.

It was just a short time before I delivered a eulogy before carrying him out of the church that I discovered his father had done the same thing many years before.

He’d never discussed his father, which is a pity. It could have explained a lot about this man and what was obviously his dark side.

Suicide always leaves those who are left behind to cope with it asking the question: What if?

How could we have helped, what could have we done to prevent such a tragic outcome?

There was a very vocal rally of young people at Parliament yesterday, calling on the Government to help fund tertiary education mental health services.

They were talking about it, like the young woman whose sister, a fourth-year student at Victoria University, committed suicide five years.

She had lots of friends, great flatmates and a supportive family, the rally was told.

But she was quietly suffering from an illness her family couldn’t see.

And that’s the hot button for the relentless campaigner, comedian Mike King, who insists we have to talk about this silent illness.

King’s done so much to raise awareness, publicly pulling out of a suicide prevention panel set up by the previous government last year saying it was vanilla, deeply flawed and self-serving with an election in mind.

It refused to address goals, like cutting suicide by 20 per cent over the next 10 years. His solution is communication – with everyone sitting down with their families and essentially saying if you’re unhappy and thinking of ending it all over the next year, then let’s make an agreement, talk to one of us first.

At least that would give those left behind a chance rather than feeling utterly helpless, full of questions but without ever knowing the answers.


If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.​

Source: NZ Herald


  1. Barry Soper’s last words in his article above are “……….. full of questions but without ever knowing the answers”. I suggest that first of all we must ask the right questions.

    It is indeed of concern that suicides are continually on the increase, both among people already under the care of our mental health services and also among the rest of us. Why?? I believe that before we “…..[can ever know] the answers” we need far better and more meaningful statistics. It is so concerning and a statistical fact that the rate of suicide among Maori men is increasing at a much faster rate than among any other population groups. Why?? We also note that Maori men are quite disproportionately represented in prisons. I postulate that these are two sides of the same coin. As these are racial facts we must ask racial questions – even if P/C folks will jump up and down with much agitation at the mere suggestion! We can dismiss genetics, of course – which leaves culture. And here we do indeed meet with enormous differences between Maori culture and that of our industrialised, European cities : one is completely centered on the success of the individual (+spouse and children) – and the other is orientated around a much wider family group with the individual playing a much more restricted and less important role.

    So I suggest we widen our statistical research (here comes the racial question!) : in addition to the usual questions about race, religion, age, gender, diagnoses of mental illnesses, etc. let us add culture. We all know that some Maori take to our selfish city culture with great enthusiasm and do as well as anybody else – whereas others do not. I think it would be very helpful if our suicide and prison statistics could indicate in what proportion successful-in-cities Maori men commit suicide and are imprisoned. My uneducated guess is that there will be no difference between races here. Then, at least, we will know where the shoe is pinching.


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