Duncan Garner stunned children under ten died by suicide

The AM Show host Duncan Garner was left stunned on Tuesday after hearing that young Kiwis under the age of ten years old have taken their own lives. 

Tuesday marks World Suicide Prevention Day, and as part of a new study, mental health campaigner Mike King and charity The Key To Life Charitable Trust are asking families and friends to send in the final words of loved ones who died by suicide.

Speaking about the study - which will look at 1000 letters or messages to understand the reasons why so many people take their own lives - psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald said Kiwis below the age of 10 have died by suicide. 

"There are a very small number that are under ten. You see it start to pick up from 10 through into adolescents. That is one of the real tragedies," he told The AM Show.

That shocked Garner who was left momentarily speechless.

"Under 10? There are young New Zealanders under the age of 10 who have taken their own lives... how do we understand that?" Garner asked.

Macdonald, the chair of The Key to Life charity, replied: "Tremendous trauma, tremendous abandonment, lots of dysfunction is the sort of thing that leads to that kind of outcome... as a parent it is shocking."

Garner said that was "confronting".

"It is too much for me."

In August, new figures revealed 685 people took their own lives in the year to June - 17 more than in the previous year.

While the statistics didn't say how many Kiwis below the age of ten died of suicide, 11 between the age of 10 and 14 took their own lives in the year to June. Seventy-three were aged between 15 and 19.

Earlier on Tuesday, MacDonald said there wasn't a large array of research into suicide in New Zealand and it was important to listen to those who have been through it. 

"There is actually not a huge amount of research that has been done in New Zealand into the causes of suicide, certainly not recently. There have been similar studies to this undertaken in Canada and the US.

"What we are hoping to achieve is to hear more from those who have sadly decided to take their lives about their thinking at that time."

From his experiences talking with those considering suicide, MacDonald said their thinking can often be restricted and emotions distort their view of the world. 

"I have spent a lot of time talking to people who are suicidal on helplines or in my consulting room and I think there are some common threads," he said. 

"People, when they reach that point, they are thinking very restricted and they do genuinely feel like they don't have any choices or there is no way out from where they are.

"It is about helping people recognise that their emotions and their mood and their circumstances are distorting the way they are seeing the world, but we really want to learn are there specific things that are going on with this terrible epidemic we have in New Zealand."

King told Newshub that he has found over the course of his work that families want to contribute to stopping suicide. 

"If you want to know why someone has taken their own life, isn't it obvious that we ask the people that took their own lives?

"We want to hear from the people, We want to know what is going on so maybe, just maybe, we can improve things so nobody else has to go through what they went through."

Families and friends who may want to share letters or notes can visit iamhope.org.nz for more information.

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