Suicides alarm community

By Amanda Snow

Picturesque Taupo Bay is having social problems affecting its youth. Photo / File
Picturesque Taupo Bay is having social problems affecting its youth. Photo / File

A Far North community grappling with a cluster of deaths among their young people says the Government isn't doing enough to prevent youth suicide.

The Taupo Bay area - a coastal settlement 20km east of Mangonui - has been stunned by the deaths of at least five young people, including three from one family, over the past year or so.

The death of a 10-year-old boy late last year sparked a call for action - but dismayed locals say nothing has changed.

And last month 15-year-old Abigale-Rose Barnard was found dead in the fifth such fatality.

One woman who knew the 10-year-old wrote to Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia and National MP Mike Sabin after his death and this week to Labour MP Shane Jones.

"I don't want to see another ambulance arriving in our community to take away the body of yet another child," she said.

"Enough is enough. This has to be a cross-party issue. Children don't care about politics."

A Taupo Bay resident said a $62 million mental health project the Government launched in April last year had "grossly underestimated" the problem.

Another Taupo Bay local, who asked to not be named for fear of reprisals, said adults in the area should shoulder some responsibility.

"There are homes where, by 11 in the morning, the males are mostly boozed and by the afternoon they are high on cannabis. The kids live an appalling life," the resident said.

Northland Regional Council member and Former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said there had also been deaths in his nearby community of Matauri Bay.

"A lot of it is happening in rural, isolated areas," Mr Samuels said.

"There's no support, there's no funding. We have to ask ourselves, 'Are we really serious about bringing down the sad statistics of youth suicide?"'

He said people were asking what they could have done, "and it emerges there were signs, but the families either didn't see it, or weren't interested."

Ngapuhi leader Rudy Taylor, who lost a young niece, said some young people in the North had become increasingly isolated.

"They closed the bus services, the post offices and some schools ... There's no jobs, no buses, no shops," he said.

Ministry of Justice coronial court figures from June 2012 to June 2013 show 34 confirmed suicides in Northland, compared with 26 the year before.

Northland's response to the suicide problem had included establishing the multi-agency Social Well-Being governance group and various whanau and youth resilience projects.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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