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National Launch Of Yellow Ribbon Programme In NZ

A new group set up to combat the world’s worth youth suicide statistics in New Zealand will launch its national awareness programme tomorrow (Sat, 7/10).

The Yellow Ribbon Programme, founded in the United States six years ago and now operating in 65 countries world-wide, aims to appoint co-ordinators across New Zealand to reduce youth suicide.

Almost three young people a week take their own life in this country – the highest rate of youth suicide in the western world. Eight more are hospitalised weekly as a result of injuries inflicted in unsuccessful attempts.

The latest New Zealand statistics show that a total of 138 people aged between 15 and 24 die from suicide annually. Eighty percent of deaths involve males, although young females are more likely to make more non fatal attempts.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is based on a simple message – it’s okay to ask for help.

The main thrust of the programme is to distribute to secondary school students its Yellow “call for help” card, which carries the telephone numbers of help agencies, including Lifeline, Youthline and Men’s Line.

New Zealand’s main metropolitan newspapers will carry feature articles on the programme this Saturday to help promote the launch and a nationwide appeal.

American couple, Dale and Darlene Emme, who founded the first Yellow Ribbon Programme in the United States six years ago after their 17-year-old son took his life, will arrive in Auckland on Saturday to support the New Zealand launch.

The goal of Yellow Ribbon is to distribute its yellow help card to all New Zealand youth and provide hope for young people in crisis.

The organisation has recently employed a full-time co-ordinator and it will shortly be seeking nine co-ordinators to implement the programme nationally.

The programme has been successfully implemented in two Auckland colleges and there is strong demand from other schools and community groups to participate.

`Yellow Ribbon was introduced to New Zealand in May 1999 by Auckland mother, Thelma French, who lost her 17-year-old son, Aaron, to suicide in 1997.

“If anyone had told me this would be my life four years ago I would not have believed them,’’ she said.

“Even now it seems so impossible that Aaron took his life by suicide. How could that happen in our family – but the reality is it did.

“Aaron did not ask for help when things were going wrong and we did not see the warning signs.

“The consequences of that ignorance will be with our family for the rest of our lives as we miss the life that could easily have been saved.’’

Mrs French began Yellow Ribbon after reading the book Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and decided it would be the perfect vehicle for getting the message across that “it’s okay to ask for help”.

She said the beauty of the programme was it’s simplicity because it had a message that everyone can relate to.

It was also adaptable to suit the needs of each school and community, and it encouraged young people to help each other in a responsible manner with the support of adults and the community at large.

Mrs French, Yellow Ribbon national chairperson, said New Zealanders would come to know Yellow Ribbon as a place where they could get the information they needed when they were worried about themselves or others, or when a family had lost someone to suicide.

New Zealand Herald feature writer Carol du Chateau, who interviewed 10 families who lost a son or daughter to suicide for Saturday’s newspaper article, said yesterday the assignment was one of the most distressing she had ever had to cover in 19 years as a journalist.

“These aren’t parents who bash their children. The senseless waste of life is so sad.

“The policy of silence around suicide is not working. We owe it to our young people to bring this issue out into the open in an adult, responsible way,’ she said.

For more information, contact:

Debbie Battaglini,
National Co-ordinator
New Zealand Yellow Ribbon Programme
Phone 09 523 4468
021 136 5951

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