Douglas Hughes: One Death Too Many

Details around the death of Corporal Douglas Hughes are becoming clearer, including the fact that he was Gay. RevChris shares his thoughts.

Corporal Douglas Hughes

Marriage equality is something that TheRevs believe in. So much so in fact, that we devoted an entire series to the discussion around marriage. In recent days however, information has surfaced that gives me reason to pause, the suicide of Corporal Douglas Hughes.

With the on-going debate around marriage equality, it is easy to get caught up in the banner waving, protesting, feel-good atmosphere that civil rights issues like this bring up. Add to the mix the fact that parliament is debating this issue and it is therefore a high-profile issue then you have not only a recipe for positive change, but unfortunately a heightened risk of getting so caught up in this single issue around what it means to be LGBTQ that others can, at times go by the way side.

Now, I haven’t suddenly become conservative on the issue of marriage equality, in fact, if anything I have become an even bigger believer in it and a more vocal supporter for it, but what the death of Douglas Hughes reminds us, is that while we are writing articles, protesting and debating the issue of marriage equality, young LGBTQ are still feeling so lost, so alone that they are taking their own lives, and this has to stop.

Now, I realise and agree that marriage equality is an important issue and a huge step on the road to reducing the stigma that too often comes with being LGBTQ. Indeed, the acceptance of marriage equality would actually mean that young LBTQ people are given hope. Hope that society sees them as ‘normal’, hope that they too can love and show that love in a public way, hope that they can live dignified lives and not be defined by what some narrow minded people think of them, and that hope is a truly powerful thing. What it is important to remember however is that there are still young people out there that can’t even find hope in a single day, let alone look beyond the next 24 hours to a time where they will be accepted.

Douglas Hughes’ death was unnecessary, he didn’t need to die, and he especially didn’t need to die the way he did. Although we don’t know all of the details around Hughes’ death it seems clear that the Army could have, and should have done more to help him. I understand and know too well that if someone wants to harm themselves, then they will find a way to do it no matter how much you try to help them, but in saying that and without trying to place too much blame on individuals, an institution such as the Army, that deals with high pressure, high risk situations on a daily basis should be more than equipped to respond to an incident where one of their own finds themselves in a vulnerable state.

When someone so young dies, especially through suicide, it is hard to see any good coming from it. It is even harder to do that without glorifying the way in which they died but I think it is important not only to remember Douglas Hughes but also to be reminded of what his death says to us. It brings home the fact that while the big issues are important, we must be careful not to let the cost of pursing them be the lives of young people. While marriage equality is important, so too are the day to day challenges facing young LGBTQ people everywhere. While parliament debating the place of LGBTQ people in New Zealand society is a huge step forward, we must ensure that those who struggle to even get through a single day are supported every step of the way.

No reira e tama, moe mai i roto i to moenga.


National Suicide Prevention New Zealand –

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