Suicide prevention office opens

The government, Wednesday, opened its first Suicide Prevention Office and announced a further $12 million for Māori and Pacific suicide prevention.

The office was opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Adern and Health Minister Dr David Clark and is part of the government’s response to its inquiry into mental health and addiction.

“Last year 685 New Zealanders are believed to have taken their lives through suicide. Each of those deaths was a tragedy and we must do more to support people in distress, or struggling with addiction,” Adern said in opening the office.

The Suicide Prevention Office will be headed by Carla na Nagara the former Manawatū coroner whom Stuff reports “has unravelled the mysteries of hundreds of suspected suicides will now act to prevent them.”

Na Nagara said preventing suicide is not about the opening of a bricks-and-mortar structure, but about a “shared commitment to lowering our suicide rate”.

“I do believe that we can turn things around and that we can bring our suicide rate down but I also believe that this will only be achieved if the nature of the problem we face is well understood and if collective responsibility is understood”, na Nagara said.

Dr Maria Baker CEO of ‘Te Rau Ora’ has doubts about ‘the office’ approach to suicide prevention.

“Contextualising suicide as a mental illness will not work … as there are limitations in dominant medicalised western approaches to suicide prevention and to Māori,” Baker said earlier in the year.

“The other issue too, of course, is going to be with mental health services – the dominant response, is psychiatric medication … there have to be other approaches that are healing, that don’t just take into account the individual’s distress, but also take into account the whānau and the context in which they’re coming from.”

To see a decrease in suicide among Māori and Pasifika, Baker favours a more community-based holistic approach one which gives people hope in a future, where they are valued, connected and can contribute.

On August 26, the Chief Coroner released the annual suicide statistics, showing a significant rise in the number of Māori and Pacifican dying by suicide.

The Suicide Prevention Office will initially be established as a team within the Ministry of Health’s Mental Health and Addiction Directorate.

Health Minister David Clark believed the office would “galvanise” work towards reducing suicide.

“I believe together we can – and will – fix this long-term challenge and make New Zealand the best place in the world to grow up and live. A country where people know there is always someone to reach out to and get help.

“We want every New Zealander to know that when times get tough, if they are in distress or they reach a crisis point, there is someone they can turn to for help”, Clark said.


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