North suicides down but still too many, says Kaitaia teen

By Mikaela Collins

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Kaitaia College student Nina Griffiths, pictured with suicide prevention campaigner Mike King, says while there has been a decrease in the number of suicides in Northland there are still "too many".
Kaitaia College student Nina Griffiths, pictured with suicide prevention campaigner Mike King, says while there has been a decrease in the number of suicides in Northland there are still "too many".

Suicides in Northland are down 25 per cent to 21 deaths this year, but a Kaitaia student says prevention needs the same level of resources as road safety. Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall yesterdayreleased the annual provisional suicide statistics from June 2015 to June 2016. There were 21 suicides in Northland compared with 28 the previous year.

Kaitaia College student and suicide awareness campaigner Nina Griffiths said it was 21 "too many".

"That's a huge amount. The target is zero ... That's like having a whole classroom wiped out. I know two people [who have committed suicide] and that has had a significant impact on me. There will be someone who knows everyone," she said.

National figures showed 579 people died by suicide in the 2015/16 year - the highest number since provisional statistics were first recorded for the 2007/08 year. This compared with the 319 people who died on roads last year.

Ms Griffiths said she'd like to see the same level of resources invested in road safety, targeted at suicide prevention.

"It's more than the road toll yet we invest so much money into road safety. We need a good investment into suicide prevention," she said.

Ian McKenzie, Northland District Health Board (NDHB) general manager of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said NDHB was pleased to see the drop in suspected suicides in 2015/16, but said there was still work to be done in preventing suicide in Northland.

Mr McKenzie said NDHB works with its partners to reduce suicide risk daily and work on longer term solutions that build resilience. He said while they accept the challenges, NDHB is committed to reducing youth suicide to zero.

"Whanau and community are the most invested and often most appropriate to support their loved one. Northland DHB wants to support this and increase opportunities to gain/share knowledge in suicide prevention that is available free of charge," he said.

Ms Griffiths said there needed to be a long-term focus on creating awareness about mental health, particularly for young people.

"I know more people suffering from anxiety and depression than I know who don't. Less stigma around mental health and good, strong role models are needed."

Mr McKenzie said NDHB chose to prioritise youth suicide to build resilience, reduce risk and improve protective factors.

He said NDHB was re-printing 5000 copies of the whanau pack, which offers ways to improve communication and build a stronger bond between parents and their children, and distributing this resource free across the Far North.

Help is at hand
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
In an emergency call 111

- Northern Advocate

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