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Māori leaders join to inspire suicide prevention approaches

Māori leaders join together to inspire new suicide prevention approaches in wake of latest figures

Māori, Pacific and indigenous leaders will next week join youth workers, teachers, community activists and others at a Wellington symposium to examine and inspire new approaches to Māori, Pacific and indigenous suicide prevention.

Recently-released Ministry of Health figures show a drop in New Zealand’s suicide rates, but reveal continued and alarmingly high rates for youth and Māori.

New Zealand’s suicide rates in the 15-24 age group for both males and females are the second highest in the OECD, and Māori youth suicide rates are 2.4 times higher than for non-Māori youth, says University of Otago Wellington Māori Public Health Lecturer and Researcher Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho. The total Māori suicide rate is 1.8 times higher than for non- Māori.

His Excellency the Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae will open the inaugural symposium being held on Monday 10 February at Shed 6 in Wellington, followed by keynote speaker Hon Tariana Turia, Minister for Whānau Ora, who has had extensive involvement in putting this issue onto political agendas. Other keynote speakers include esteemed lawyer and activist Moana Jackson and honoured Pacific leader Associate Professor Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban QSO.

Minister for Whānau Ora Hon. Tariana Tūria, Pacific mental health professional Dr Francis Agnew, and Māori health leader Professor Sir Mason Durie will launch a new national suicide prevention programme for Māori and Pacific communities during the symposium.

Dr Lawson-Te Aho is convenor of the symposium. She says the importance of building whānau resilience and capacity and recognising the integrity of whānau and cultural values and identity is vital for Māori suicide prevention.

All those with an involvement and investment in suicide prevention agree that Māori suicide in Aotearoa is a major issue, with immediate action needed to prevent further harm to Māori and Pacific communities, Dr Lawson-Te Aho says.

“Many committed people are working tirelessly, often voluntarily, for this outcome in their communities. We need to honour and support the collective effort. At the end of the day, those with the most capacity to impact suicide are those working in their communities and whānau. However, they need support to do this.”

The symposium has been organised under the mantle of the University of Otago Wellington’s Public Health Summer School, and is timed to contribute to the national strategy for Māori and Pacific suicide prevention. It will examine Māori, Pacific and indigenous approaches to suicide prevention, highlighting successful suicide prevention case studies in local and international contexts.

Advice from the symposium will be forwarded to the Minister and officials responsible for the implementation of the New Zealand suicide prevention action plan and Minister Tūria, the Iwi Chairs Forum and Māori and Indigenous suicide prevention networks, mayors and local and regional authorities and other key stakeholders with the capacity to support whānau and community-led suicide prevention projects and programmes.

Dr Lawson-Te Aho would like to see an ongoing suicide prevention monitoring process established to continue to monitor New Zealand’s progress in addressing suicide prevention in its communities, to recognise that we are part of a global picture, and to ensure New Zealand is connected with international indigenous suicide prevention efforts globally.

“New Zealand has long been recognised for innovative responses to social, political and cultural issues. In Māori suicide prevention, we have the support of other indigenous leaders and communities and all eyes will be on the outcomes of this symposium and next steps for the prevention of suicide in Māori, Pacific and Indigenous communities.”


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