Youth suicide worries spark action

By Mikaela Collins

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Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, general manager of the Ngati Hine Health Trust.
Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, general manager of the Ngati Hine Health Trust.

A youth suicide prevention group will be relaunching in Kaitaia following a spate of suspected suicides but a community leader says although it is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to give the town's young people hope and opportunities.

Police confirmed that five young males aged between 17 and 25 had died suddenly in Kaitaia over a 12-week period.

The Ngati Hine Health Trust (NHHT) has been working with community organisations in Kaitaia to re-establish a Far North branch of the RAID movement, after the existing scheme, run under another group, ended following a lapse in funding.

Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, general manager of the NHHT, said there were always plans to re-establish a Far North branch of RAID but after a series of suspected suicides in Kaitaia it needed to be fast tracked.

"It's an impetus of the worst kind but despite that it is about getting in the game [and] getting up there," she said.

Ms Kapa-Kingi had been to Kaitaia to meet local service providers and community groups such as Te Runanga a Iwi o Te Rarawa, who hold the Kia Piki te Ora Maori suicide prevention contract.

Ricky Houghton of He Korowai Trust, whose nephew died suddenly about four weeks ago, said while any attempt to address the ongoing status of young people was progress, proactive measures were needed.

"If there is no sort of training or employment or any move in their future [they feel trapped].

"Suicide is normally based around people feeling trapped. If they feel trapped ... they choose a riskier lifestyle. A 16-year-old does not understand consequences and all you've got to do is blur that decision making with drugs," he said.

Nina Griffiths, a Kaitaia teenager who helped organise a series of community meetings on youth suicide after losing two friends, also met Ms Kapa-Kingi and said it was "awesome" to see the RAID movement relaunch in Kaitaia.

"I really hope it still caters to youth because [the last Far North RAID movement] was awesome, it should have never left," she said.

Ms Griffiths said many people in the community had been keen to offer help. She had applied for AMP scholarships in the hopes of keeping the Te Hiku Youth Centre open as the Ministry of Social Development contract it is under runs out next month.

Ian McKenzie, general manager of mental health and addiction services at Northland District Health Board, said NDHB has a suicide prevention plan in place and increased its staffing level by five in recent years in Kaitaia to ensure the service meets the health needs of the people of the Far North.

Mr McKenzie said a programme called Upstander, which follows Matanui, a play written in response to a spike in youth suicide figures in 2012, will tour Northland next year to help youth recognise strategies to reduce or eliminate bullying and/or family harm.

Kaitaia will also be taking part in the Light for Lives Night Walk to raise awareness for suicide on Saturday. To take part meet at the Kaitaia Lookout at 5am.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline - 0800 543 354
• Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
• Samaritans - 0800 726 666
• Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. Text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz.
• 0800 WHATSUP (0800 9428 787), Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
• Healthline - 0800 611 116

- For more information about support and services available to you, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812 during office hours or email info@mentalhealth.org.nz

- Northern Advocate

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