Sports star's plea over whanau tragedy
Youth-centred, community driven approaches are vital to stop bullying and more deaths, say Northland experts.
Kopani McIlroy, 13, died suddenly this week.
The Northland boy's death is being investigated by the coroner. Family have spoken out to say he had been bullied.
His cousin, Wallabies player Quade Cooper - who is at the Rugby World Cup in England - paid tribute to the 13-year-old on Twitter.
"RIP young Kopani ... As the pain and suffering of the gutless bullies eases may the love of your kind spirit live on.. #StopBullyingForKopani," he wrote.
Cooper also talked to media about cyber bullying and how people often felt powerful behind a computer screen.
"People feel they can say nasty things but how can they know what damage is being done? For the people doing the bullying, there are no real consequences until something tragic happens," Cooper said.
Mariameno Kapa-Kingi oversees Northland youth suicide awareness initiative The Raid Movement. She said a national survey of youth who had had suicidal thoughts had revealed that bullying was a major factor in 70 per cent of those surveyed.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health show each year more than 500 New Zealanders take their lives.
"Bullying is far too closely related to attempts of suicide and suspected suicide. That conversation runs parallel with it, often where you have suicide you have bullying," she said.
Ryan Donaldson is project manager of bullying prevention initiative Tu Toa, linked to Whangarei Youth Space. The group recently released four short films focused on youth bullying to raise awareness. Tu Toa was a Government funded initiative, however, Mr Donaldson said that funding was no longer available which meant the group could not make a fifth film about cyber bullying. He said there needed to be more funding and resources provided by Government so communities were able to tackle bullying and youth suicide.
"It needs to be community focused. We need to ask what people want and what can be done. It needs to be led by youth. I mean you see the 'It's Not Ok' campaign and men are leading that and you have Quade Cooper talking about bullying - we need more of that, (but) there needs to be a campaign from youth for youth," he said.
Ms Kapa-Kingi agreed, saying young people were more open with people their own age. She said a youth centred approach did not mean adults should be left out of the picture as it was important for adults to get involved.
Tania Papalii, Resilience Programme Lead, Mental Health & Addiction Services for Northland District Health Board, said Northland DHB continued to focus on suicide prevention alongside its partner agencies and had contracted Playworks to write a further play following the success of Matanui, a play about youth suicide.
"This play focuses on bullying and family violence, funding is being sought to produce the programme early 2016 within the schools of Northland," she said.
Jim Luders, Principal of Northland College - the school Kopani attended before moving to Rotorua three-months ago, said Kopani was a "lovely boy" and the school was devastated at his death.
"He has a lot of connections at the school, he went to primary school here and a lot of our students went through school with him. Our first priority is to support our students through it and we will go as a school to his tangi."
Mr Luders said it could be challenging for schools to address bullying, particularly in the age of social media.
"Cyber bullying is hard to control. Adolescent girls, especially Year 9 in particular, are very aggressive in their attacks. Schools also can't control what goes on at home or on weekends. It simply needs to be up front all the time by all of us. It seems a timeless problem that needs more attention on a daily basis."