Suicides prompt call for law change

By Lawrence Gullery

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Hawke's Bay's suicide figures have prompted a Napier man to ask for changes to the Privacy Act, allowing agencies to share information which can help prevent more people from taking their own lives.

Jim Morunga said he was often the "regular recipient of tragic news" as part of his work leading the Kia Piki Te Ora suicide-prevention programme, under Te Kupenga Hauroa health service.

Figures released by Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean this month showed that 35 people took their lives in the Hastings coronial region last year. "I was shocked and disappointed that we are allowing this to happen," Mr Morunga said.

"We are feeling quite down about the whole matter because we are charged with the idea of prevention in our community, but don't seem to be making headway if those stats are to be believed.

"Some things that impede this situation is legislation in some parts of our acts, the rules around the Privacy Act in particular, which I consider to be like a barrier to being informed."

Mr Morunga said the act prevented medical professionals sharing information, for example, if they suspected warning signs of suicide.

"GPs aren't able to share their concerns with the parents or caregivers. Teachers who have similar information can't share it with parents or caregivers as well.

"The current act prevents us from getting involved in a case so our avenue to help people in the community is narrow."

Kia Piki Te Ora, which covers an area from Wairoa to Central Hawke's Bay, is now in its second year, and the challenge for the programme over the next 12 months is to encourage people to talk more about suicide and meet with those who "want to make a difference".

Mr Morunga said he wanted to follow the lead set by the Chief Coroner this year, who said the issue of suicide needed to be "brought gently out of the shadows".

"I would back that 100 per cent. We want to speak with the community, doesn't matter who it is, Maori or Pakeha, although our primary drive is whanau, hapu and iwi.

"Most people have suffered some kind of disappointment, depression, pain or hurt and we are asking, please, speak to someone about it.

"Have that conversation with friends, family, professional people, neighbours - have the courage to take that opportunity because an issued shared is an issued halved."

Mr Morunga said there were a number of health agencies and organisations that offered people help, but anyone who was willing to listen could prove instrumental in preventing someone from taking their own life.

"Just being there to listen, to acknowledge and consider the problems, is something we can all do. If not, there are people specifically in place to receive those issues from people in pain."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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