Lifeline refines strategy on self-harm

By Sam Hurley

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Cherie Adams with a photo of her son Corey, who committed suicide on June 20, 2011. Photo / Duncan Brown
Cherie Adams with a photo of her son Corey, who committed suicide on June 20, 2011. Photo / Duncan Brown

Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day and Lifeline Hawke's Bay says it will continue to find ways to help local youth and buck the recent trend of suicides among the elderly.

Lifeline Hawke's Bay chairperson Jill Fitzmaurice said the organisation relies on sources such as the Ministry of Health which has released a strategy for reducing suicide.

"We are looking at how we can work with that strategy to have the best impact, particularly for Hawke's Bay," she said.

"Suicide stats are always a couple of years behind. It's the time it takes to collect and collate so that by the time they are released they are already out of date. We have to be careful not to react to the most recent statistics but use them as one source of information about where to focus our efforts."

Lifeline needed to continue to act as the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom.

"We know for certain that talking about suicide in the right way is a strong preventative factor. People do give signs that they are thinking of suicide. We work by identifying the signs of suicide and then allowing people to express their feelings, their fears and anxieties, their sense of having no options," she said.

"We find that having that conversation can allow a person to become calmer, more rational in their thoughts, more able to look at options other than suicide."

Haumoana resident Cherie Adams lost her son Corey to suicide in 2011, and said suicide prevention had "come a long way but still has plenty more to do".

"Richmond House is a fantastic facility that more people need to know about and it is organisations like Lifeline that help get the message out there."

In July Mrs Adams and her daughter Sarah donated $1000 to Richmond House in Hastings, after the residential mental health facility helped Corey fight his depression.

She said the message for those struggling with depression should be to "choose life, choose happiness" and although difficult at times, to not draw on the negative aspects in life.

"The preventative action plan is way better than it used to be, but it still has a long way to go- there are so many people out there that need help."

She said social media can be used in a positive light to help people in need, however too often it has the opposite effect.

She also noted that more people should be aware of initiatives such as Mike King's Radio Live Sunday show for advice and support, after the entertainer has had a well publicised battle with depression.

She praised her local suicide support group run by Warren Brown and said such groups are "a fantastic source of support for people".

Mrs Adams is marking today by lighting a candle at 8pm with other families who have lost their loved ones through suicide.

Lifeline was aware of a trend showing an increase in suicide amongst the elderly.

"With that in mind, we will be putting effort over the next few years into ways of becoming more visible and more accessible to the elderly. Obviously we want to work with local providers, but also to make ourselves more visible in the retirement villages."

She admits, however, that youth remain the most at-risk demographic.

"There are many young people growing up in Hawke's Bay, and these include many international students and backpackers. These young adults are away from home and away from their usual support networks, and they may not have the problem-solving skills needed to deal with some of the challenges they will face," she said.

"We want to ensure that Hawke's Bay is a safe and welcoming place for young adults."

Lifeline is also looking at ways to reach the rural regions of New Zealand outside main centres such as Napier and Hastings.

"New information technology should allow us to have trained telephone counsellors outside the major population areas of Napier and Hastings, and in smaller centres like Wairoa, Dannevirke and Waipukurau," Ms Fitzmaurice said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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