Suicide rates across the country have been described as a national tragedy - with one Bay education leader saying it rivals the road toll.

Western Bay of Plenty Principal Association president Dane Robertson said in his view suicide was "almost like the unspoken statistic".

His comment comes after a Far North community leader this week said a spate of at least five suspected suicides in the township of Kaitaia reflected a pervasive feeling of hopelessness in the town.

Youthline New Zealand said suicide was an issue for every town, it was a national epidemic and the organisation was calling for "emotional first aid" training.


Mr Robertson said he had looked at the statistics and it was up there with the road toll.

Often incidents were not talked about, he said.

"I know that when it does happen in schools there are trauma teams to go in to support the staff, the students and families," Mr Robertson said.

The topic was briefly discussed with other principals at the end of last year in regards to accessing special education and help, he said.

"That was more in the context of the support that could wrap around the student at the time, if they were showing signs.

"School councillors were saying we need people, more qualified people than ourselves."

Grief Support Services Tauranga team leader and senior counsellor Janet Baird said the service had a contract with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board to provide support to people bereaved by suicide and those affected by suicide.

Ms Baird said one of the main themes of this year's World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 was "connect, communicate and care".

"Often people don't know how to ask when something is clearly wrong, and they may feel it could make the situation worse if they do. But it's OK to ask.

"The first step is to ask if the person is OK and the next part is knowing what to do and how to act if they actually say no. If your gut tells you something is not right, it's OK to ask the question as it might save a life."

Ms Baird said maybe the questioner could also go with the person to their GP or take them somewhere else where they could get the help they need.

Western Bay police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said police and community partners all recognised this was a significant concern in the region, particularly the impact suicide had on young people, their friends, family and the wider community.

If your gut tells you something is not right, it's OK to ask the question as it might save a life.


"That is why we established a suicide prevention governance group which includes police, health and education officials, CYFs and a number of other community partners and meet regularly to review cases of suicide, and discuss ways to provide more support," he said.

New suicide prevention guidelines for hospital emergency departments were introduced in April aimed at helping further improve the care for those at risk of suicide.