Action to address suicide

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A youth-driven campaign to raise awareness about Northland's shocking youth suicide rates is in the pipeline after a successful Youth Summit wrapped up.

A group of 59 youths spent Wednesday and yesterday coming up with a project to action at the NorthTec Raumanga campus.

Dozens of ideas were put forward, but ultimately the one that captured their hearts and everyone felt strongly about was a campaign to make Northland teens realise suicide is never an option.

The "Live My Life" campaign will be launched with financial backing from the Ministry of Youth Development.

Kauri Harema, 17, head boy at Whangarei Boys' High School, was part of the initial team that came up with the "Live My Life" idea. He said youth suicide has affected almost all the young people involved in the summit.

Barron Witanga, 17, is from Kaitaia and was working as part of the team thinking of ways to spread the message from Whangarei to the Far North.

He said young people in Kaitaia are struggling, and under-age drinking and drug abuse is prevalent.

"I know, because I was one of the bad kids," he said.

He said he was sent to Auckland after getting into trouble in Kaitaia four years ago and is now back home in Kaitaia at the ATC Military Preparation school.

"I want to make a youth community space for the troubled youth in Kaitaia. There's a lot of them up there," he said.

Agnes Hermans, summit coordinator, said it was positive to see youth planning a project that will be followed through.

"Some have given themselves tight timeframes, with one group launching a Facebook page connected to the project on Saturday," she said.

"This has the potential to be a real movement. Some of the senior students who are leaving school are already talking about how to bring younger students on board." The campaign will be brought in to schools with talks at school assemblies being planned, and a young woman on board to share her real-life experience with the suicide of a close friend. They are also hoping to get Mike King involved, who was in Northland giving suicide prevention talks in April.

Ms Hermans said the team of young people will be looking to agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Northland District Health Board and others to support the campaign.

There were 39 suspected suicides in Northland last year, the highest number in at least five years. Of the 39 suspected Northland cases before the coroner, three involved youngsters aged 10 to 15 years old; 12 were 15-19 years old and five were 20-24. Nineteen were Maori and 27 were male.

- Northern Advocate

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