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Dunne launches 30-point plan to tackle suicide rate

Hon Peter Dunne

Associate Minister of Health

Media Release

Dunne launches 30-point plan to tackle suicide rate

An $8 million four-year programme to strengthen Māori and Pasifika communities; support for anyone who loses a family member to suicide and a pilot programme supporting small communities losing a major industry or employer are among 30 initiatives in the new national suicide prevention plan launched by Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne today.

‘Every suicide is a tragedy, and our suicide rate is unacceptably high, particularly among Maori.

“This must change and the launch of this plan today is an important next step in trying to achieve that,” Mr Dunne said.

He said the fact that 30 specific actions in the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013 to 2016 involve eight government agencies highlights the reality that suicide is complex and requires a range of solutions.

“And those solutions almost always require people and organisations working together,” he said.

Mr Dunne said the suicide toll at around 500 was often compared to the road toll, at around 300.

“But in a sense that comparison actually highlights the issue with suicide – ‘make it click’, ‘slow down’ and ‘don’t drink and drive’ go a long way to reducing the road toll. The answers for suicide are far more complex, and this plan is another important step in dealing with such complex realities.

“However, plans, on their own, do not save lives. There are no easy answers. But people working together, with good resources, focus and with a good plan underpinning that work give us hope of making real progress,” he said.

“Some of the plan’s initiatives focus on strengthening or expanding existing programmes, including further training and support for frontline staff in contact with people who may be at risk of suicide. Others are new initiatives that we plan to trial.

‘We are going to boost support initiatives that give families, whānau and communities the tools they need to respond to people who are struggling or who have lost a friend or loved one to suicide. We are also strengthening support for vulnerable communities, including responding to suicide contagion or clusters,” Mr Dunne said.

The new plan also introduces new approaches, including a partnership with the Health Quality and Safety Commission to get better knowledge of contributing factors and patterns of suicidal behaviour in New Zealand.

“Currently little is known about risk factors, trends and situations specific to people who end their lives by suicide. These actions will lead to better sharing of suicide data and monitoring of risk factors.”

Growing use of technology is also reflected in the plan through a small social media pilot around suicide prevention and increasing information on tackling cyber-bullying.

The plan builds on previous initiatives, including the over-arching NZ Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006-2016 and Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2008-2012.

Its initiatives will receive $25 million in earmarked funding over four years, including $8 million from the Budget 2012 commitment to strengthening communities to prevent suicide.

The full plan can be found at www.health.govt.nz/publication/new-zealand-suicide-prevention-action-plan-2013-2016

Ends.

Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016:

Questions and Answers:

Why is it necessary to take action to prevent suicide in New Zealand?

Suicide is a serious concern for New Zealand. Around 500 New Zealanders die by suicide every year; an average of 10 deaths each week. Suicide affects the lives of many others – families, whānau, friends, colleagues, and communities.

We already have a suicide prevention action plan. Why do we need another one?

It is important to regularly review approaches to suicide prevention and take into account new research and evidence, along with changes in society. The previous action plan came to an end in 2012 and this new plan builds on the progress and investment that has been made in the last four years.

Initiatives introduced and implemented under the previous action plan include:

• Mental Health 101 (MH101), a mental health literacy programme

• the Journal, a self-management programme for people with depression

• the Lowdown, a website and text messaging service to help young people understand and deal with mental illness

• the Community Postvention Support Service to support communities responding to suicide

• the Victim Support Initial Response Service for people bereaved by suicide.

A key focus of efforts over the next four years will be on further strengthening links between people and organisations, including families, whānau, communities and agencies. People and organisations need to work together for suicide prevention to be successful.

Is anything else being done to prevent suicide in New Zealand?

There are a wide range of suicide prevention activities in New Zealand. In addition to the new plan, other activities that contribute to suicide prevention include:

• the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project – focusing on young people with, or at risk of developing, mild to moderate mental health issues

• Whānau Ora – building whānau resilience and encouraging whānau solutions to whānau problems

• Better Public Services – improved support for vulnerable children, boosting skills and employment, reducing crime and prolonged welfare dependency

• the Children’s Action Plan – identifying, supporting and protecting vulnerable children

• Social Sector Trials – focusing on positive social outcomes for young people aged 12–18

Rising to the Challenge: The Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012–2017 – improving mental health and wellbeing, and addressing addiction

• Positive Behaviour for Learning – an education sector initiative to intervene early and address behavioural problems among school-aged children

• legislative review programmes, including Harmful Digital Communications, the Coroners Act 2006 and the Local Government (Alcohol Reform) Amendment Act 2012

• initiatives funded by community and private organisations.

What is the rationale behind the Action Plan?

The Action Plan is the next step in the Government’s commitment to address New Zealand’s unacceptably high suicide rates. Some existing services and initiatives are very effective, however many are relatively small-scale and are only available in certain locations. A focus of the Action Plan is to expand these services and make them more widely accessible.

Who was involved in the development of the Action Plan?

Eight government agencies worked together to develop the plan, with a range of people and agencies also involved in the plan’s development discussions. This included communities affected by suicide and people who work in suicide prevention.

Does the Action Plan reflect evidence-based best practice in suicide prevention?

Several actions have a strong evidence base, such as training gatekeepers and general practitioners to identify, support and refer people at risk of suicide. The Action Plan will help build the evidence base by:

• trialling new ways of supporting families, whānau and communities, particularly Māori and Pasifika

• trialling a mortality review mechanism to build knowledge of suicidal behaviour in New Zealand and an understanding of the key intervention points

• developing an outcomes framework to monitor and measure changes in suicide and associated risk factors.

The previous action plan contained information about the evidence base. Much of this evidence is still current and applicable, and informs the actions in the new action plan.

What difference will the Action Plan make?

The Action Plan will:

• address the impact of suicide on families, whānau and communities by strengthening support for family, whānau and communities

• build the evidence base, specifically around what works for Māori and Pasifika

• extend existing services, specifically addressing geographical gaps in the coverage of services

• trial the use of social media as a prevention tool

• strengthen suicide prevention targeted to high risk populations who are in contact with agencies.

How much will suicide rates reduce as a result of implementing the Action Plan?

The Action Plan has been designed to address a range of factors that are associated with suicide. This approach is likely to be effective at reducing rates of suicide as numerous factors influence a person’s decision to take their own life, but it is not possible to say by how much suicide rates are likely to reduce.

What does the Action Plan do to address our youth suicide rate?

Other initiatives are under way to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people. This includes the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project which is working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people, through a package of 22 initiatives which are being implemented in schools, families and communities, health services and online.

Will the Action Plan address Māori suicide rates?

All actions will be developed in a way that is responsive to Māori who have a higher rate of suicide when compared to other ethnic groups. Efforts to address Māori suicide rates will include strengthening community capacity, networks and leadership, and supporting families and whānau to develop their own responses to suicide risks, and build resilience. Work will also be undertaken to identify what works for Māori to prevent suicide, and to share that knowledge.

How will the Action Plan be funded?

Funding of $25 million over four years has been earmarked for the 30 actions in the plan. This amount includes the $8 million over four years to support communities to prevent suicide as announced by Ministers Dunne and Turia in June 2012.

Is it okay to talk about suicide?

Yes, it is. However, it is important to be mindful of how we talk about suicide, as certain ways of talking about suicide are more helpful than others. Some ways of talking about suicide can have a negative impact. On the other hand, conversation that includes talk about links with mental health problems, how and where to access support and services in the community, where to access online information and support, and sharing personal stories of hope and healing, can be helpful. Such talk can help people feel more supported and can encourage people to seek help earlier.

Where can I get support and help from?

Below is a list of some of the services available which offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.

• Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) – 0800 111 757

• Healthline – 0800 611 116

• Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4 pm to 6 pm weekdays) – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline)

• Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

• Samaritans – 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / 04 472 3676 (for callers from all other regions)

• Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else; 12 noon to 12 midnight) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

• Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand – www.spinz.org.nz

• Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

• What’s Up (for 5–18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) – 0800 942 8787

www.depression.org.nz

www.thelowdown.co.nz – visit the website, email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between 12 noon and 12 midnight).

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