What can we do to prevent youth suicide?

That was the question a cross-section of Bay people including social workers, researchers, church leaders, government and non-government agencies gathered to discuss yesterday.

There was frustration in the room - too many in need, too little funding, so many complex issues involved - but also hope and energy.

They were brought together by the Tauranga Youth Development Team for the first of three forums on the subject.


The team's general manager Becks Clarke said the goal was to share ideas between people in different sectors and come up with tangible actions to reduce the number of youth suicides.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board suicide prevention and postvention coordinator Renee Wilton gave a presentation about the issues facing this region and the complex web of motivations and influences that could play a part in a young person deciding to take their own life.

She presented statistics about suspected suicides by people under 24 in the Bay of Plenty over the past four years.

Averaged out, the Bay had 21.07 youth suicides per 100,000 people over that period. The national regional average was 13.35. There was an increase over the period she looked at.

Rates for 10- to 14-year-olds, 20- to 24-year-olds, males and young Maori were particularly concerning.

Ms Wilton said the numbers were small and easily skewed, but they were a place to start.

She talked about risk factors, brain development, genetics, trauma. Others in the forum began pitching in their ideas and experiences.

They discussed successful models of engaging small communities in suicide prevention, and how such models might be applied in a bigger city such as Tauranga.


Rangi Ahipene, of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, said young people he worked with felt a sense of hopelessness. They were disengaged from their communities and a culture change was needed to re-engage them.

Barter Barber Sam Dowdall talked about working with men in rural communities, the isolation and loneliness they felt and the difficulty they had talking about how they felt in tough times.

"The relief is huge when they realise others feel like them."

The next forum will be held on November 1.

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
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666