Dunne: Tackling Maori suicide rate to reveal 'blunt and ugly truths'

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Tackling the high Maori suicide rate requires facing up to "blunt and ugly truths" about the causes including sexual abuse, drug and alcohol problems and family violence, says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

His comments at a Maori suicide forum today come after the release of a $25 million national suicide prevention plan which aims to strengthen and expand existing suicide prevention programmes, as well as trial new initiatives.

The plan includes $8m for a programme to help Maori and Pasifika communities develop their their own solutions to suicide.

In a closing address to the forum of health and community leaders, hosted by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae at Government House today, Mr Dunne said there was a need to be challenging and provocative when it came to discussing how to tackle the issue.

"The need to recognise some pretty blunt and ugly truths and be prepared to address them - sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and family violence - and to be prepared to be up-front about these being causes in our society that we often tend to shy away from."

Mr Dunne has said the suicide rate was unacceptably high, particularly among Maori, and today he said the initiatives in the national suicide prevention plan would be developed in a way that was responsive to Maori.

The plan already encompassed many of the ideas and challenges which had been raised at today's forum, he said.

Mr Dunne said a call for more youth participation, from mental health advocate Mike King, had to be a guiding principle moving forward.

"Our young people have the best opportunity and value for the future, and that is where our investment has to go because the biggest tragedy of all is the wanton loss of young life," Mr Dunne said.

Mr King told the forum that suicide prevention started with education.

"And our kids need to be involved in the debate - they have been excluded - and I am hoping after today that a greater role will be played in our education system, to get our children involved in this debate.

"Our appalling suicide statistics do not change until our children lead the way."

Among the new initiatives in the national suicide plan are support for small communities which lose major industries, more support for families of suicide victims, a social media trial on suicide prevention and tackling cyber-bullying, and funding to develop better knowledge of contributing factors and patterns of suicidal behaviour in New Zealand.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Youth services: (06) 3555 906

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)

The Word

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (24-hour service)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

CASPER Suicide Prevention

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- APNZ

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