When 17-year-old Nina Griffiths lost two friends to suspected suicide, she had to do something.

The Kaitaia College student organised a community korero with comedian and suicide awareness campaigner Mike King as the guest speaker.

Her conclusion? Kaitaia needs a youth-led suicide prevention programme where young people can go for help.

Kaitaia's Nina Griffiths and comedian Mike King at the community korero.
Kaitaia's Nina Griffiths and comedian Mike King at the community korero.

"For myself, I lost two mates in the last couple of months and we shouldn't have to lose so many before we do something. The reluctance to talk about it or do something is not working as a preventative," she said.


Miss Griffiths said there needed to be a safe space for youth to go in Kaitaia.

"People say go to counsellors. But that is not a youth-friendly environment, it's so clinical. That's why the [RAID movement] was so awesome."

The Far North RAID movement was a Kaitaia-based branch of the Whangarei RAID movement, which was established in 2012 following a cluster of youth suicides. The scheme ended after funding lapsed.

Miss Griffiths said she knew RAID worked because she had a friend who said it became somewhere he could go.

Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, Ngati Hine Health Trust general manager, who oversees the Whangarei-based RAID movement said the model worked because it saw youth at the front line, while professionals and service providers were the "second circle".

"Our experience is that young people prefer to talk to young people. It is so important to have these spaces that are safe for [youth]."

Ms Kapa-Kingi said the RAID movement in Whangarei were currently looking at re-establishing a Far North branch.

Miss Griffiths said she had been told there had been least five suspected suicides in Kaitaia in the last couple of months and, over one weekend, there had been two suspected suicides.


"The thing is it is hard, but it's also really hard knowing this is happening and nothing is changing at all to change it," she said.

For the last two weeks Miss Griffiths had been organising Monday night's community talk, which was attended by about 180 people.

She said she advertised the meeting on Facebook and although she did not directly invite service providers, she said it was shared to them by others.

Mr King said it was awesome that Kaitaia's youth had recognised the problem and wanted to be part of the solution.

Ian McKenzie, general manager of Mental Health and Addiction Services at Northland District Health Board, said some of the work contributing to reducing suicide across Northland included supporting whanau, hapu and iwi, ensuring schools have information on suicide prevention available and improving services for people experiencing mental health problems.

He said NDHB had also contracted Playworks Productions to write a further play after the success of Matanui - a play written in response to a spike in youth suicide figures in 2012.


The play focused on bullying and family violence and funding has been provided by Te Puni Kokiri to produce the programme for Term 2 next year within schools and the community in Northland.

Miss Griffiths said funding for suicide prevention programmes, like the Far North RAID movement, was an issue.

"The reliance on funding is a real problem. People come in and tell you what is wrong and this is what you need to do to change it. But then that support is withdrawn, there's no continued funding."

Miss Griffiths planned to hold a follow up meeting inviting service providers and government agencies along to hear what the youth of Kaitaia had to say.

Mr King was impressed with Miss Griffiths' ability to get so many people together.

"It was a coming together organised by the youth of Kaitaia to get community solutions to a youth suicide epidemic in the town," Mr King said.


"Nina wants to help the youth of the area, and the youth are part of the solution up there.

We can't just say to youth 'leave this to the adults to sort out' because the youth have a role too. Many young people won't talk about these things to adults, but will open up to other youths."

Mr King said the "adult-driven" suicide prevention programmes did not always work, as was clear by the high rate of youth suicides in NZ and it was time for a different approach.

Where to go for help or advice:

• Lifeline - 0800 543 354
• Depression Helpline (8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
• Healthline - 0800 611 116
• Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz
• 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)
www.depression.org.nz - includes The Journal online help service
www.thelowdown.co.nz - visit the website, email team@thelowdown.co.nz 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).