Call for nationwide remembrance services for suicide victims

The group behind a special service remembering suicide victims held in Whanganui wants the initiative to spread nationwide. 

Dozens gathered to share their grief at the event on Tuesday, organised by a local funeral director and a suicide support group, including Lynette Smith. Her son Aaron was 43 when he took his own life in 2016, which his father Robert says was "an extreme waste of life".

Aaron was one of more than 600 Kiwis to die by suicide that year, but at the time he did try to seek help. 

"In the early days when he was suffering from depression, when he did try to get help it was hard to get," says Mrs Smith.

Now it's Aaron's parents reaching out for help, and their call has been answered. Local funeral director James Forrest held a service on Tuesday night to remember those lost to suicide.

"It just gets everyone together and lets them realise they're not going through this alone," he says.

Guests lit candles and released colourful balloons to commemorate the lives cut short by suicide.

Mr Smith says it helped him to meet others in similar situations, even if the pain of a lost child never really goes away.

"I met a woman there that lost a child 30 years ago and she still cries today, so it's always there, it's always in the background."

Mr Forrest has noticed a huge rise in the number of suicides in the Whanganui area.

"My colleague had the unfortunate experience of having to care for four families, which is just unheard of," he says.

He has held this service, in conjunction with a suicide support group, since 2003. He wants to encourage other funeral directors to consider doing the same around the country, so that no life lost to suicide will be forgotten.