Mark Sainsbury: We need to stop turning a blind eye to big problems

It's time to stop ignoring New Zealand's big problems
It's time to stop ignoring New Zealand's big problems Photo credit: Getty Images

OPINION: Here's my question. Are we turning a blind eye to problems too big to tackle? 

I couldn't help but be disturbed by a report on Monday night about the death of Morocco Tai. The 15-year-old was, a few weeks ago, a passenger in a stolen people mover that careened down the wrong side of a motorway in Auckland. He only missed oncoming traffic by some miracle. He was charged with aggravated robbery, endangering transport and aiding a driver in a dangerous manner.

Now he is dead after stealing a car, leading police on a chase and crashing into a tree. His two female passengers are lucky to be alive.

My question is: what happened here? Are we powerless to stop this happening and how can there be no connection with these kids?

Yes, the cops do the hard end - the arrests, the cautions, the door knocks to tell the parents their loved one is gone - but where are the services to bring people like Morocco back into the fold.

There have been failures, and yes you could say there should be some responsibility on the kids' part, but the bottom line is often there's not.  It's never been there and what you might say of the parents, we don't know what happened here. We don't know what part they played or if they too felt helpless, and often we have little sympathy.

You will have heard it, even felt it rising in your own head, 'Well if they break the law and don't obey the police what do you expect?' I guess we don't expect 15-year-olds to die, unable to control a car evading the cops. Why is it happening and why is nothing done about it? If we know kids have problems, what's the structure and what's the plan to sort it before they become just another statistic?

Speaking of parents taking responsibility, another mum coping with a death is Hana Reedy.  She heads to Parliament on Tuesday to present a petition calling for the Government to address mental health support.

Her daughter Ariana took her own life two months ago. Hana had tried everything to get help for her daughter. She wasn't a parent who just let things slide, she begged for help after Ariana tried on two occasions to take her own life. The system did not serve Ariana or her parents well and Hana doesn't want it to happen to anyone else. Is this again us turning a blind eye? That wonderful and evocative laying out of the shoes that went around the country, before ending up in front of Parliament on World Suicide Day on September 10 sums it up.

The 606 pairs of shoes laid out represented the 606 people who had taken their own lives over the past year. That's more than the road toll, yet what do we do about it? Stuff all. And is this our fault as well? Should we be screaming on the streets, screaming for the Government to do something about it? And yes this is the Government's job.  Why are there some problems in society we don't want to know about?

It's World Mental Health Day on Tuesday as well as World Homeless Day - two related problems - but should we need a day to remind us we've failed sections of our society? So let's confront those things we perhaps prefer not to.  How big is the problem and what should we do about it? How do we reach the unreachable? Before we write them off and before they write themselves off. 

Mark Sainsbury is RadioLIVE's Morning Talk host.