Suicide is the third most common reason why people die early in New Zealand, and the Government wants a nationwide conversation on how to lower our notoriously high rates.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has released a draft strategy for the prevention of suicide and is calling for public views amid some startling statistics.
More than 500 people die each year, by suicide. But according to the draft strategy, a further 150,000 people contemplate taking their own life, around 50,000 develop a plan to do so, and 20,000 attempt it.
“Suicidal behaviour affects a significant number of people every year, and has substantial impacts on the individual as well as on their families, friends, and wider community,” said Coleman.
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“Our suicide rate is too high with approximately 500 deaths a year. I’m particularly worried about the rates for youth, and specifically Maori and Pacific young people.”
The draft strategy makes the point that at a national level, targeted activities to prevent suicide should first focus on groups who had higher rates of suicidal behaviour than others.
The Government had identified those groups as Maori (particularly aged 15 to 44 in all areas, and 15 to 24 years living in areas of high deprivation), mental health service users and those admitted to hospital for intentional self-harm, Pacific peoples (particularly aged 15 to 44 years in all areas, and 15 to 24 years high deprivation areas) and young people aged 15 to 24.
Among the strategies the document proposes, is to encourage more conversations around suicide – but ones that are safe, and responsible, that don’t inadvertently encourage harmful behaviour.
The media had a large part to play in that, and the document called for more reports on people who had overcome suicidal thoughts and attempts.
The strategy highlighted that many believed that people could not talk about suicide because it might lead to further suicidal behaviour.
“Because of this, people in distress or people who have lost a loved one to suicide may find it more difficult to seek care and support.”
The draft strategy also calls for further work to reduce stigma around suicide and mental illness, increased access to professional help and more help for parents and families.
The Mental Health Foundation said all politicians needed to work together and make a cross-party commitment to a wide-sweeping national strategy.
“Just addressing the symptoms of mental health problems through traditional service provision will not create lasting change.
“We must look at the causes of mental health problems and build the positive wellbeing and resilience of every New Zealander,” said chief executive Shaun Robinson.
He said the majority of people who received support from New Zealand mental health services were satisfied with their care, but one in five were dissatisfied and a significant number of people did not receive appropriate care.
“Demand for mental health services has increased by 70 per cent in the last decade and funding has not kept pace.”
Coleman said the strategy acknowledged the need for input and engagement from right across society.
“Health services, particularly mental health services, and Government agencies cannot do this work alone.
“It also builds on the previous strategy with a proposed stronger focus on opportunities across Government to better manage integrated responses and share information.”
Coleman has called for feedback from individuals and organisations on the strategy document. It was developed by the Ministry of Health, which held more than 20 workshops across New Zealand, with families, providers, clinicians, academics, and other government agencies.
Consultation on the draft suicide prevention strategy was open until June 12. When Cabinet approves the final strategy, it will become the next New Zealand suicide prevention strategy.
WHERE TO GET HELP
*Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354 *Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757 *Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116 *Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666 *Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends. *Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org *0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz. *Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors. *Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) *Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).