The New Zealand Herald is running a special series about youth suicide called Break The Silence. It will run for approximately five weeks from July 4.

Warning: This article is about youth suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

New Education Minister Nikki Kaye says the time is right for a national conversation about youth suicide after successive governments have failed to significantly reduce the number of young people killing themselves.

Only eight weeks into the job, New Zealand's youngest female Education Minister is tackling the issue with ferocity and urgency. Kaye, 37, returned to Parliament earlier this year after treatment for breast cancer.

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Break The Silence: Q&A on Herald special series

"I came back from having cancer because I wanted to make a significant difference," Kaye told the New Zealand Herald.

New Education Minister Nikki Kaye is tackling youth suicide with ferocity and urgency. Photo / Michael Craig
New Education Minister Nikki Kaye is tackling youth suicide with ferocity and urgency. Photo / Michael Craig

"Over successive governments youth suicide has been a longstanding issue, but that doesn't mean we don't need to take responsibility for that and continue to do more.

"This is about accepting that successive governments haven't managed to design things in a way that's made a significant difference, so we've just got to keep changing things up."

New Zealand ranks second worst in the developed world for suicide in those aged 25 and under. It is the worst in the world for suicide in those aged 15 to 19. The suicide rates have remained largely unchanged for two decades.

This year the Herald is shining a light on the issue of youth suicide in a special series called Break the Silence.

Break The Silence: See the full series here

"You know I've only been the Education Minister for eight weeks, but I do feel a sense of urgency about continuing to make change [in this area]," Kaye said.

She has already met the Government's chief science advisor and education science adviser to ask "what we could potentially do differently as a country to make sure we are doing everything possible to reduce the number of young people taking their life".

In Budget 2017, the Government pledged an additional $224 million towards mental health which Kaye said "is us saying we need to do more".

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman's office declined numerous requests for an interview for this series. Kaye is working with fellow ministers, including Coleman, to divvy up how that extra funding will be spent and said this would be announced in coming months.

She plans to improve "fragmented" school services to help build resilience in youth and to make young people part of the solution by involving them in redesigning services.

"I think we are definitely going to have more of a national conversation about [youth suicide]. I think the time is right," she said.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757