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Suicide Prevention Is Everybody's Business

THE youth suicide rate has fallen slightly for the past three years but suicide is still the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old New Zealanders, following motor vehicle crashes, and New Zealand's suicide rate remains one of the highest in the world.

The New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, now in its third year of implementation, aims to reduce the youth suicide rate partly by promoting positive mental health among young people and by reducing the stigma of mental health problems. October 9-15 is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Research consistently shows that up to 90 percent of those who take their own lives had a recognisable - but not necessarily recognised - mental illness, most commonly: depressive disorders alcohol, cannabis and other drug abuse-present in over one-third of those making suicide attempts significant behavioural problems (such as conduct disorders and antisocial behaviours). In many cases those making serious suicide attempts will have more than one of these disorders at the time.

"New Zealanders, especially young men, do not appear to be great at asking for help and this is an attitude that needs to change. We also need to be far more understanding of the problems and needs of others," the Ministry of Health's Deputy Director-General Mental Health, Dr Janice Wilson, said.

The successful Like Minds, Like Mine campaign links with the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy by working to demystify mental health problems, reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and encouraging people to seek help.

If you are concerned about someone who may be suicidal or is very distressed, you can seek advice and help from your family doctor or practice nurse, the community mental health service, Marae based health clinics, Mäori community health workers, a counsellor (including school guidance counsellor) or Mäori health/counselling services and phone counselling services such as Lifeline, Samaritans or Youthline.

The New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy is made up of two linked parts: In Our Hands (the whole population strategy) and Kia Piki te Ora o Te Taitamariki (the strategy specifically for young Mäori).

"The Government can't reduce or prevent youth suicide on its own. Youth suicide prevention is everybody's business; the government, communities, families and individuals, and the growing number of community-led programmes in New Zealand shows that communities are responding to this challenge," Dr Wilson said.

"The Ministry of Health is particularly pleased to see initiatives that draw on the framework and goals written in the national strategy. These programmes aim to show young people that their peers, families and communities care, they encourage young people to talk about their problems and concerns, and that it is okay to seek help," Dr Wilson said.

Young people who are suicidal will need specialist treatment occasionally and support and this is offered mainly through specialist mental health services, which are being expanded throughout the country.

A range of services and resources also need to be available for those who are bereaved after a suicide. The Ministry of Health is considering what resources and services are required to meet the needs of those who are bereaved by suicide.

Kia Piki te Ora o te Taitamariki, the Mäori component of the Strategy has a strong foundation in community and cultural development as an approach to reduce and prevent taitamariki suicide. A range of programmes and resources are being developed specifically to strengthen Mäori communities, taitamariki Mäori, and their whänau and assist in their ability to address youth suicide prevention in a culturally appropriate way and at the local level.

A range of factors appear to help protect people who might otherwise be at risk of suicide. These include coping skills, feelings of self-esteem and belonging, connections to family or school, secure cultural identity, supportive family/whänau, hapü and iwi, responsibility for children, and social support. However, while protective factors may act as buffers they do not simply cancel out the risk factors - rather, they may help limit the negative impact when appropriately linked with other preventative strategies.

Please attribute the above information to the Ministry of Health's Deputy Director-General Mental Health, Dr Janice Wilson

Background information

The following contacts may be helpful for providing information about suicide and links to mental illness.

Mental Health Foundation PO Box 10051 Auckland Tel: (09) 630-8573 Fax: (09) 630-7190 Internet: http://www.mentalhealth.org.nz Email: resource@mental health.org.nz

SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information Service New Zealand) Internet: http://www.spinz.org.nz Tel: (09) 630-8573 Fax: (09) 630-7190

Youth Suicide Awareness Trust PO Box 3369 Auckland Tel: toll Free 0508 CHOOSE LIFE

New Zealand Schizophrenia Fellowship Inc PO Box 593 Christchurch, Tel: (03) 366-1909 Internet: http://www.sfnat.org.nz

Wellington Mental Health Consumers Union P O Box 6228 53 Courtney Place Wellington Tel: (04) 801-7769

Manic Depressive Society Inc PO Box 25068 Christchurch Tel: (03) 366-5815

Manic Depression Information Trust PO Box 37829 Parnell Auckland Tel: (09) 827-7027

For emergencies contact either: the local 24 hour crisis mental health service (psychiatric emergency services) community mental health services (including kaumatua) ambulance general practitioner Emergency Department of the local hospital Youthline (0800 376-633) Lifeline (check the listing in your local telephone directory) Samaritans (check the listing in your local telephone directory)

The general support services below should be listed in the front section of your local phone book. Community mental health services School counsellor General practitioner Specialist Education Service Lesbian and gay support counselling services Iwi and other Maori health/counselling services Sexual abuse counselling services Family counselling services Alcohol and drug Services Bereavement services Victim support

ENDS

For more information, contact: Angus Barclay, Media Advisor, phone: 04-496-2182 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html


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