Warning: This article is about youth suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

Principals from across New Zealand have contacted Kamo High School head Jo Hutt to congratulate her for having the courage to break the silence on student suicide.

Hutt has featured in two major investigations into youth suicide as part of the New Zealand Herald's Break the Silence series. She is the principal of Kamo High, a secondary school in Whangarei that was "absolutely rocked to the core" after three teen suicides in 2012.

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Two of the students who took their own lives, Colin Taipari-Herewini and Mia Dunn, were from the same Kamo High classroom: 10LW. Their deaths marked the start of an unprecedented youth suicide cluster in Northland that claimed the lives of 19 young people in 2012.

The Herald first contacted Hutt back in April to inform her that we were investigating the Northland suicide cluster that started at her high school.

We explained that New Zealand has the worst teen suicide rate in the developed world and that the annual number of deaths has remained largely unchanged for 20 years.

Hutt was initially reluctant to talk about such a sensitive topic, but after an hour-long conversation she decided this was an issue that needed to be "hauled out of the shadows".

Last Tuesday, the Break the Silence series launched with an investigation into the youth suicide cluster that began at Kamo High in May 2012 and earlier this week Hutt featured in another story about how schools are gagged from talking about suicide because of fears of contagion.

The day before the first story was published, Hutt briefed all of the teachers in the staffroom and told them to be open to discussing the story and the issue of suicide in their classrooms.


"I told them if the kids want to talk about it, to talk about it," she said. "Our young people can come and tell us what's going on and how they're feeling."

She told the teachers if they didn't feel comfortable answering students' questions they could refer them to the guidance counsellors, "but don't just brush it under the carpet".

Hutt said she had received only positive feedback about the media coverage.

She said the head boy came into her office and said: "It's pretty cool it's being talked about."

Principals from as far as Invercargill have contacted her to say "good on you for speaking out", she said. One principal emailed Hutt to say it's a shame not all parts of the country are comfortable to speak openly about suicide.

"This is not a Northland issue, it's a national issue," Hutt said. "We need to blow the whistle; blow it hard."


While it's a good start to raise awareness about the high rates of youth suicide in New Zealand, Hutt said it was even more important to start a conversation about how we might change things.

"What are we doing right now to reduce the possibility of it happening again?" she asked.

• Donate to Northland's Raid Movement, a youth-led group fighting to combat suicide, by contacting the organisation via Facebook.

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 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234


There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.