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Breaking the silence on suicides in Dunedin

Breaking the silence on suicides in Dunedin

The Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust successfully brought together around 110 community members to discuss and address our national suicide problem last night. This gathering, held in the Dunedin Salvation Army Haven Hall, provided a safe space for people to share their stories. For many people this was the first time they had felt comfortable to share their story in public.

Significant numbers of Maori, males and youth attended this robust discussion which was important as they are overrepresented in our statistics. 1 A number of survivors of suicide and bereaved attended the discussion as well.

A common echo from the panellists and audience was the failure of services to include family and whanau in the care process.

Tyrin Tutaki who represented youth, spoke of the lack of support in schools for our at risk youth and asked hard questions of the panellists around how to improve this situation. He noted that the National Suicide Prevention plan did not include the voice of youth, or the role that bullying played.

Inspector Mike McIlreath from NZ Police explained the role of Police in keeping people safe. He stated that a cell was not the best place to keep a suicidal person. Everyone present agreed.

SDHB nurse educator Colette Ryan explained her role in providing education to staff and her passion to get the message across in training sessions.

Grant Cooper from Otago Mental Health Support Trust explained the importance of how everyone in the community can make a difference simply by reaching out. He related the story of Don Ritchie who lived next to the Gap, a cliff in Sydney in Australia known for multiple suicide attempts, who saved many lives simply by offering a kind conversation and a cup of tea.

Jane Stevens’ story touched the hearts of many in the audience. Although Jane could not attend, her talk was read out. She urged all people to speak out and to be part of the change that needs to happen to our mental health system to keep vulnerable family members safe, well and alive. Jane’s brother David was in attendance at the meeting.

Sid Taylor concluded that a perfect world would be needed to completely prevent all suicide. Sid shared that we need to be realistic, as this world is not perfect. When we become unwell we needed a system that can cope with the demands.

Corinda Taylor shared that young people are particularly vulnerable and that it is worrying that NZ has the highest suicide rates in the 32 OECD countries for ages 15-19.2 Clinical mental health records which are not electronic, fail our people in distress. Assessments conducted without access to the clinical history, in a discipline where reviewing the clinical history is of utmost importance, is very concerning.

In light of the recent major health funding cuts to DHBs and our high suicide rates, a petition was circulated requesting Government to organise an inquiry to determine if current mental health services meet the requirements and if future planning is adequate to meet future demand for our people in distress and at risk of suicide,

A list of action points was compiled which will be used when making submissions to the National Suicide Prevention Plan 2016. The general feedback from those that attended was that it would be valuable to have a second event.




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