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Suicide Trending Down – But Still 2 Youths A Week

Suicide Rate Trending Down – But Still 2 Youths A Week

Gregory Fortuin Founding Chairman of Youth Suicide Awareness Trust

Following my first exposure to the carnage of youth suicide in 1997 and the birth of the Youth Suicide Awareness Trust we knocked on countless doors at Parliament. Two people responded, i.e. Opposition MP Jim Anderton and Minister for Youth Affairs Deborah Morris. Morris oversaw the creation of the Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy but it is Anderton that I wish to salute.

Anderton demonstrated a major commitment firstly as Deputy Prime Minister and now as senior Government Minister and deserves much credit for the welcoming trends. He has often fought a lone battle.

However before we get too congratulatory in discussing suicide numbers, rates and ratios, we need to remember that every single suicide is a personal tragedy. Suicide is our No 1 killer ahead of motor vehicle deaths and 10 times greater than Homicides. It deserves a greater priority around the cabinet table. It does not deserve provisional 2002 statistics in 2005.

The 94 tragedies of young people between the ages of 15 to 24 are still almost 2 young deaths a week and the 68 hospitalisations of kids under 14 is frightening to say the least. The female rate for the ages of 15 to 24 is way above other OECD countries and more than double that of our closest neighbour Australia. Our rate is still alarmingly high and needs a greater sense of urgency.

There are still far too many parents desperately seeking adequate avenues to turn to in their hours of need. We don’t need more brochures but fieldworkers on the ground. Youthline still needs funds to resource a 24hour helpline. Post Suicide support as per the strategy still has a very long way to go.

Given the complexities no one has a monopoly on solutions. There needs to be a far greater support for the role that responsible community organisations can and should play. There is definitely a role for peer support programs – just ask the kids.

And finally, the bureaucrats must see the media not as enemies that need to be regulated but as partners which can assist with awareness and education in the battle to keep our youth alive.

So once again well done to Anderton and his team, but 2 Youths a week clearly says there is still a very long way to go.

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