A Far North community leader says a spate of at least five suspected suicides in Kaitaia reflects a pervasive feeling of hopelesssness in the town.

Ricky Houghton of He Korowai Trust, whose nephew died three weeks ago, said the deaths were a sign of "a community in crisis".

"The people are feeling doomed. There's a sense of hopelessness and helplessness of the young people," he said.

"It's just a sign of how they believe their future is. They believe the sun isn't going to come up any more and that there is no future. They just feel they are doomed."


Houghton's nephew was a 28-year-old father of two young children. He had been a manual worker until he had to give up work due to a mental condition.

"He was diagnosed as clinically depressed, but there are no real services up here short of hospitalising them in Whangarei," Houghton said.

He said there were community mental health services in Kaitaia, but the nearest acute mental health unit was in Whangarei.

He said he knew of five other deaths of people all under 30, including teenagers.

Kaitaia College student Nina Griffiths, 17, organised a meeting late last month with comedian and suicide awareness campaigner Mike King soon after the first deaths.

"I lost two mates in the last couple of months and we shouldn't have to lose so many before we do something," she told the Northern Advocate at the time.

"The reluctance to talk about it or do something is not working as a preventative."

The meeting on July 25 drew 180 people and led to reactivating a Far North branch of the Raid movement supporting young people affected by suicide.


Kaitaia College principal Jack Saxon said one of the young people who died was a year 13 boy at the school who died just before the end of the last school term on July 8.

"The coroner is investigating that," he said.

Saxon said he had heard of four other suspected suicides from second-hand sources, including Houghton.

"That would be five in potentially two months. That's a high number.

"At least in three of the other ones we've had whanau members in the school that have been impacted."

He said local social services rallied to offer immediate counselling to students, staff and whanau after the death of the college student.

Griffiths had organised three meetings, and the college was organising a public SafeTalk meeting on the evening of September 9.

"There is complexity up here. There is also aroha and love," he said.

"I wouldn't say that we have got a community in crisis. I do believe we need to confront the issues collectively and I think part of that is that in policy terms, when the rubber hits the road, major agencies in New Zealand start considering the resourcing that is being funnelled into this area."

Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tso said his service was supporting the bereaved families.

"It is a sad case of affairs . . .

"The response that we provide victims . . . is part of our business and certainly that is a real focus for us in the Kaitaia region at the moment."

Where to get help:

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 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.