Tariana Turia is questioning whether the Government has an effective response to the number of 32 suspected suicides in Northland this year, the latest tragedy involving a 10-year-old boy.
"Their communities are reeling and I'm just not sure that the Government knows how to help," the Maori Party co-leader and Associate Health Minister said.
"It is shocking ... It's a measurement of how bad things are when your kids lose all hope about living."
She said she attended a hui in Northland last week after the death of a 10-year-old.
"I wept. I thought, my God, what happens in a 10-year-old's life that they have no desire to live."
The issue of suicide, particularly by disaffected and isolated Maori youth, was raised several times at the Maori Party conference in the Wairarapa, including by a local woman who said there had been 14 suicides in the area over the past 10 months, most in the 15 to 20 age group.
Mrs Turia and co-leader Pita Sharples said young people needed to be kept at school. Even if they were bored or a nuisance it was preferable to them being isolated.
Mrs Turia questioned part of the Prime Minister's $62 million package for youth mental health over four years, announced this year, especially putting health officers in schools.
"Why would we think that health services in schools are going to be the panacea for this? They are probably not the kind of kids that will go to the health service at school. If they are so far down, they are not going to trust anybody."
The rise in Northland's suspected suicides is concerning Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean: there were 26 in 2010; 17 in 2011 and a suspected 32 this year, 15 of them Maori.
Mrs Turia talked to a group of young people in Northland last week about why they thought it might be happening.
"They felt that these kids were isolated, they were lonely and they weren't listened to in any environment. Some of them had been abused, some of them had had very poor life experiences and in the end they had no hope, no hope about a future," she said.
One mother at the hui last week spoke about how her son had been turned away from kapa haka because the group took only 40 for competition training, and he could not get into taiaha training because it was reserved for "naughty kids".
United Future leader Peter Dunne is the Associate Health Minister responsible for suicide prevention but Mrs Turia is vowing to interfere.
"I guess I'm interfering in his work but I do so because it's our kids and Pacific kids. I am really worried and I think we need to be looking for a solution for our families."
Where to get help
If it's an emergency and you feel you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Depression: Helpline 0800 111 757
What's Up: 0800 942 8787
- Additional reporting: APN