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Strong enough to care to stop suicides

17 March 2008 Media statement

Strong enough to care to stop suicides

There is no quick fix in suicide prevention, Associate Health Minister and Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton said today.

"It requires long term and co-ordinated action across society, and this is the message of a new Suicide Prevention Action Plan released today."

Jim Anderton said the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2008-2012 will guide our suicide prevention efforts over the next five years

The Action Plan provides evidence about what is most likely to effectively prevent suicide in New Zealand, as well as detailing what actions are required, who will do them, and by when. The Plan builds on the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006-2016, providing more detailed information about how the seven goals of the Strategy can be implemented.

Jim Anderton said that to effectively prevent suicide, all the different people and organisations involved need to understand how they fit into the big picture of suicide prevention.

"This Plan will assist researchers, policy makers, funders, community organisations and professional groups to work more closely together."

While it is important that communities are involved in and committed to suicide prevention, it is also essential that all activities are safe and guided by evidence, he said.

"That is why considerable effort has been put into producing The Evidence for Action, which ensures the actions in the companion document The Summary for Action are evidence-based.

"We are already fortunate in New Zealand to have people with a range of expertise who are committed to suicide prevention. And we have a variety of initiatives happening right now and contributing to suicide prevention across the country.

"A few of these are being described at today's launch - programmes to promote mental health in schools, to provide information and support for people experiencing depression, to reduce the risk of suicide for children and young people in care, and to improve the care of people who have made suicide attempts."

"It is encouraging to know that New Zealand's suicide rate has reduced by about 19 percent since the late 1990s, but there are still too many New Zealanders taking their own lives and still much more we need to do. I believe this Action Plan will assist us all to strengthen the work we are already doing and to set priorities for future actions to prevent suicide."


Information about suicide prevention can be found by contacting SPINZ ( or by looking at the Ministry of Health website (

There is evidence that some types of reporting of suicide can result in an increase in suicides. Please refer to the Ministry of Health booklet Suicide and The Media:The Reporting and Portrayal of Suicide in the Media. A Resource (

If you are concerned about someone who may be suicidal or is very distressed, there are a number of services you can approach. They include your primary health care provider or general practitioner (GP), community mental health service, Maori community health service and counselling services such as school counsellors or family counsellors.

Some useful phone numbers: Lifeline - 0800 111 777
Samaritans - 0800 726 666
Youthline - 0800 376 633

For information about depression: Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Online support for young people: The Lowdown -

In an emergency, anyone seriously concerned about an individual's immediate safety should remain with him or her until appropriate support arrives, remove any obvious means of suicide, contact the nearest hospital or psychiatric emergency services/ mental health crisis assessment team.

Questions and Answers:

What will the Action Plan do? Why do we need an Action Plan?

The Action Plan translates the goals of the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2006-2016 into action. It outlines how the Strategy will be implemented over the next five years.
It will guide government and non-government agencies involved in planning, funding and delivery of suicide prevention initiatives.
The Action Plan will help ensure that suicide prevention initiatives are well planned and co-ordinated, and are evidence-based, safe and effective.

Why are there two documents?

The Action Plan is made up of two companion documents, which should be read together.
The Summary for Action provides detail about the actions, including who will do them and by when.
The Evidence for Action provides detail about the evidence and rationale informing the actions. In this way, actions are based on sound evidence, and are more likely to be safe and effective.

Who is responsible for implementing the Action Plan?

The Ministry of Health is the lead government agency for suicide prevention, and is responsible for co-ordinating the implementation of the Action Plan. The Ministry is supported by the Inter Agency Committee on Suicide Prevention, which reports to the Ministerial Committee on Suicide Prevention.
The Action Plan outlines which agencies are responsible for leading the implementation of specific actions.
A wide range of organisations and individuals are involved in suicide prevention. These include: government agencies, non-government organisations, policy advisors, service planners, service providers, researchers, professional groups and communities.

Is there new money to support this Action Plan?

In 2007 $23 million over four years of new funding was allocated specifically for suicide prevention initiatives.
In addition to this, many initiatives that contribute to suicide prevention are not called "suicide prevention programmes" but are part of the core work of a range of government agencies and are part of baseline funding. For example, it's hard to separate out suicide prevention funding from a lot of general mental health service funding.

What are the goals of the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy?

The goals of the Strategy are to:
* promote mental health and well-being, and prevent mental health problems;
* improve the care of people who are experiencing mental disorders associated with suicidal behaviour;
* improve the care of people who make non-fatal suicide attempts;
* reduce access to the means of suicide;
* promote the safe reporting and portrayal of suicidal behaviour by the media;
* support families/whanau, friends and others affected by a suicide or suicide attempt; and
* expand the evidence about the rates, causes and effective interventions.

How can suicide be prevented?

Suicide is complex and its prevention requires a range of initiatives across different settings. Prevention initiatives are generally aimed at reducing risk factors, promoting protective factors and improving service provision.
Some examples of current suicide prevention initiatives are:
* raising awareness about depression and encouraging help-seeking
* improving the care and follow-up of people who have made a suicide attempt
* reducing the risk of suicide for at risk children and young people
* supporting families, friends and communities following a suicide
* professional development for teachers to improve the mental health of the whole school
* improving co-ordination of suicide prevention activities within district health board regions
* providing information about suicide and suicide prevention
* Maori community development for suicide prevention
* skills-based training in suicide intervention.


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