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The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

A world-renowned barrister who once represented the father of Princess Diana’s lover will host a meeting on the silence around suicide in Auckland tomorrow with his partner Yvette Greenway.

Michael Mansfield’s daughter Anna took her own life two years ago at 44 years old.

The barrister and his partner Yvette Greenway have been on a worldwide campaign jointly set up by themselves as directors and cofounders called the Silence of Suicide ever since.

Mr Mansfield was a keynote speaker at the Criminal Bar Association Conference in Auckland last weekend but tomorrow he will hold an SOS meeting at the city centre building where the New Zealand Herald is based.

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

The high-profile barrister has participated in prominent and controversial cases involving accused IRA bombers, the infamous Bloody Sunday incident, the Hillsborough stadium disaster, the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes and Diana, Princess of Wales, and the famous McLibel case.

At the inquest into Diana’s death, he represented Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Diana’s lover, Dodi Al Fayed.

The loss of his daughter sparked a campaign which he and his partner Yvette Greenway have decided take around the world, and which was launched at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, England.

This was 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. Fifty people are coming so far and we of course would like as many people to come as possible,” said Mr Mansfield.

Ms Greenway also lost a childhood friend to suicide on Xmas Eve, five months before Anna died, which devastated her and was also the impetus to kick-start their campaign.

“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.

“The silence that surrounds the word suicide,” she said.

“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 tomorrow (Saturday, August 19) in the iHeart Lounge on the ground floor of NZME Central, 2 Graham St, Auckland.

If you need to talk to someone:
Youthline: 0800 376 633
lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide crisis helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 tautoko) (available 24/7)
• Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757

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