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Get to grips with tragedies first, prevent it second

News release: Get to grips with tragedies first, prevent it second

The loss of two young children’s lives points to a ‘missing step’ in New Zealand’s counselling and mental health services, says the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC).

In recent weeks, two girls aged 9 and 10 are believed to have taken their lives in unrelated incidents. Both deaths have been referred to the coroner for investigation.

NZAC spokesperson and school guidance counsellor Sarah Maindonald says if Kiwis come to grips with suicide, then further tragic deaths can be prevented.

“Many suicides, particularly those of children, are preventable,” she says.

“Counselling and robust pastoral care systems in primary, intermediate, and secondary schools can identify signs of psychological distress, depression and other risk factors which may signal a need for further intervention.

“This is no judgment on any school or family, as suicide can be an impulsive decision, but one we must come to grips with as a nation so we can make systemic changes.”

According to the provisional suicide figures released by the Coroner’s Office, eight children aged 10-14 died by suicide in the year ending June 2016, compared to 10 in the same age group during the previous year.

Raising awareness of the benefits of school counsellors and resourcing these services adequately within the school community will help build safety nets for children and young people, Ms Maindonald says.

She says further action will also promote a reduction in New Zealand’s youth suicide rate, which is consistently one of the highest in the OECD.

“I think social activist Mike King had it right when he blamed, in part, NZ’s youth suicide statistics on social disconnection.

“We need well-resourced student support services, like school counsellors, but we’re missing a step. Children and teenagers don’t naturally refer themselves to mental health services—they often need a ‘bridge’.

“They need someone like a school guidance counsellor who can follow up with the right questions. There is no shame in talking about your emotions, or how you are feeling. Talking could well be life-saving.”

END

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