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Speech: Launch Of Suicide Prevention Programme



9.30am 16 JUNE 1999

Today we launch Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand or SPINZ.

It might sound strange at a launch, but I hope that one day this service will no longer be needed.

But, for now we have a serious problem amongst our young people, that we must give our determined attention to.

Suicide is second only to motor vehicle crashes as the main cause of death among young New Zealanders aged 15-24 years of age.

A total of 142 young people aged 15-24 years died by suicide in 1997

Of these young people, 29 were female and 113 were male

In 1996 143 young people died by suicide, and in 1995, suicide affected 156 young people's families and friends.

The ratio in New Zealand is four male suicides to one female suicide. This appears to be a common pattern in most countries.

There are a number of theories for this pattern.

For example, men tend to be more reluctant to seek help for emotional problems or even express their distress to friends and family.

Females, however, make more non-fatal suicide attempts.

Young Maori are particularly vulnerable. In 1997, 36 Maori youth aged 15-24 died by suicide, compared with 106 non-Maori.

While Maori make up 14 percent of New Zealand's population, 25 percent of all suicides were by young Maori.

We know the statistics. Unfortunately, solutions are far more elusive.

Suicide prevention can not be easily compartmentalised.

A lot of Government's work, aimed at improving the well-being of young people, also supports the prevention of youth suicide.

The Ministries of Youth Affairs, Health and Te Puni Kokiri have been working together to develop the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy and specific youth initiatives to address youth mental health problems.

The National strategy draws together and coordinates the wide range of initiatives already in place. It also recommends new work to be done.

SPINZ, which we are launching today, is a direct outcome of the National Strategy.

We know that suicide raises many questions from many perspectives.

What could I have done?
Who else is working in this area?
Why is this happening in our community and country?
What are they doing in other countries?
Where can I go for help?

These questions require answers and answers require information.

Unfortunately, in this area there aren't easy and straightforward answers.

But there is a lot of information that can help us understand suicide better and move towards solutions.

This information must be widely available. We must also be confident that it is sound and well informed.

It was from this need for information that SPINZ grew.

The service has been developed by Youth Affairs with support from the Ministry of Health and Te Puni Kokiri.

It will provide a wide range of information relating to mental health issues, with a particular focus on young people, and the prevention of youth suicide.

Many of those present will have directly or indirectly contributed to the development of SPINZ.

I thank you for your efforts.

I would particularly like to thank the various NGO groups who have provided support to Youth Affairs during the development process.

It is important to recognise that SPINZ may not meet everyone's needs.

It will need time to develop and make crucial links with key organisations both in New Zealand and internationally.

But I am confident that the service will give most New Zealanders access to key information.

It will build peoples' knowledge about mental health issues and help link them to other people also working in this area.

SPINZ will be delivered by the Mental Health Foundation in collaboration with The Centre For Youth Health (part of South Auckland Health Services).

As many of you will be aware, the Mental Health Foundation already has an established record for the provision of information and resources, including those specifically targeted at young people.

SPINZ will draw on the specialist skills of the staff in both the Mental Health Foundation and the Centre for Youth Health to support its work.

Over the next few weeks the Mental Health Foundation will begin talking to a number of agencies about the development of an Advisory Board to work with them on this project.

I congratulate the Mental Health Foundation for securing the contract to provide this service and wish you and your colleagues at the Centre for Youth Health well in its development.

I know Youth Affairs will be working closely with you as the service gets underway.

I am pleased to be able to announce Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand establishment.


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