Suicide rates across the country have been described as a national tragedy - with one Bay education leader saying it rivals the road toll.

Western Bay of Plenty Principal Association president Dane Robertson said in his view suicide was "almost like the unspoken statistic".

His comment comes after a Far North community leader this week said a spate of at least five suspected suicides in in the township of Kaitaia reflected a pervasive feeling of hopelesssness in the town.

Youthline New Zealand said suicide was an issue for every town, it was a national epidemic, and the organisation was calling for "emotional first aid" training.


Mr Robertson said he had looked at the statistics and it was up there with the road toll. Often incidents were not talked about, he said.

"I know that when it does happen in schools there are trauma teams to go in to support the staff, the students and families," Mr Robertson said.

The topic was briefly discussed with other principals at the end of last year in regards to accessing special education and help, he said.

"That was more in the context of the support that could wrap around the student at the time, if they were showing signs. School councillors were saying we need people more qualified people than ourselves."

Grief Support Services Tauranga team leader and senior counsellor Janet Baird said the service had a contract with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board to provide support to people bereaved by suicide and those affected by suicide.

Grief Support Services Tauranga team leader and senior counsellor Janet Baird

Ms Baird said one of the main themes of this year's World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 was "connect, communicate, and care."

"Often people don't know how to ask when something is clearly wrong, and they may feel it could make the situation worse if they do. But it's okay to ask.

"The first step is to ask if the person is okay and the next part is knowing what to do and how to act if they actually say no. If you gut tells you something is not right, it's okay to ask the question as it might save a life."

Ms Baird said maybe the questioner could also go with the person to their GP or take them somewhere else where they could get the help they need.

Western Bay police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said police and community partners all recognised this was a significant concern in the region, particularly the impacts of suicide on young people, their friends, family and the wider community.

"That is, why we established a suicide prevention governance group which includes police, health and education officials, CYFs and a number of other community partners and meet regularly to review cases of suicide, and discuss ways to provide more support."

New suicide prevention guidelines for hospital emergency departments were introduced in April aimed at helping further improve the care for those at risk of suicide.

Where to go for help

•Lifeline - 0800 543 354¦Depression Helpline(8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
•Healthline - 0800 611 116
•Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
•Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email
•What's Up (for 5 to 18-year-olds; 1pm to 11pm) - 0800 942 8787
•Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) - 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline)
• includes The Journal online help service
• - visit the website, email or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between noon and 12 midnight).
•OUTLine NZ - 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) (provides confidential telephone support for sexuality or gender identity issues)