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Draft all ages suicide prevention strategy

27 April 2005

Launch of draft all ages suicide prevention strategy

The government has launched a draft all ages suicide prevention strategy and the is asking members of the public to have their input with submissions and public meetings.

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Four out of five New Zealanders who die by suicide are aged 25 and older which is why the government is broadening its suicide prevention initiatives to cover the whole population, Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said today on releasing the draft New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy.

"Until now, suicide prevention initiatives have focused on our youth. This is because of the high rate of suicide among our 15 to 24 year-olds and the concern this has justifiably generated," Jim Anderton said.

"But we're now going to build on what we've learned through the Youth Suicide Strategy we launched in 1998, which we've used as a basis to develop our broader all-ages approach.

"Although the all age strategy will supersede the youth strategy, there will continue to be a focus on youth, as well as on other high-risk groups such as males, older people, Maori and Pacific peoples," the Progressive leader said.

Jim Anderton said that while New Zealand's suicide rate had significantly declined in recent years, we still have one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world and suicide remains a very serious public health issue.

"The number of New Zealanders killing themselves each year exceeds the annual road toll, while the number of people hospitalised for attempted suicide stands at around 5000.

"While the reasons people take their lives are many and complex, the goal for which we are aiming is simple: we want to reduce our country's rate of suicide to a level comparable with the lowest rates of suicide in other OECD countries," he said.

Jim Anderton said that the strategy aimed to develop broad preventive measures supported by service providers, families, community and government organisations.

The strategy, which now goes out for public consultation, will provide a framework to help the government identify the breadth of action that needs to be taken and the best areas on which to focus.

A detailed action plan to implement the strategy will be developed once the draft is finalised. The action plan will be updated regularly to reflect current priorities and actions being taken at government and community levels to achieve the objectives set out in the strategy.

A key feature of the government's infrastructure to support the strategy will be the Ministerial Committee and Inter-Agency Committee on Suicide Prevention which were established under the Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. These will continue to meet regularly to ensure that momentum around the new strategy is maintained.

During May the Ministries of Health and Youth Development will be consulting with the public on the draft through a series of 16 public meetings.

A meeting is also planned for early May between Ministry of Health officials and media executives for an in-depth briefing on the strategy. Jim Anderton said this will also be a chance to examine the sensitive issue of media coverage of suicide events and data. There is evidence some types of media coverage can increase suicidal behaviour.

Liaising with the media to support the development of industry-owned protocols on the reporting of suicide in the media was one of the recommendations of the recently-released Tully Report, he said.

The Ministry of Health will be engaging key media industry bodies, such as the Commonwealth Press Union, to respond to this recommendation.

Public submissions on the draft close 5pm June 17.

ENDS

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