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Responding to people at risk of suicide crucial

Monday, 20 December 2010

Responding to people at risk of suicide crucial, says Mental Health Foundation

“Everyone can play a role in identifying and responding to people at risk of suicide,” says Judi Clements, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

Responding to the release today of the Ministry of Health’s Suicide Facts for 2008, Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand (SPINZ), which is a part of the Mental Health Foundation, is highlighting the services, programmes and resources available to support those at risk of suicide, their families and friends and those working in primary care and mental health services.

“It is good to see the suicide rates for the whole population and, in particular, Maori and young men are trending down,” says Merryn Statham, Director of SPINZ. “But of concern, is the increase in rates for young women aged 15-24 years, the highest since 1999 at 11.1 deaths per 100,000 population.”

Building resilience in young people is essential to nurturing and maintaining their mental health and wellbeing and there is much work being done in this area, including the work of school counselling services, a Ministry of Education review into school guidelines, government-funded free counselling services through primary health organisations, help lines such as Lifeline and Youthline, whose text support service is more popular with young people than the phone service, and online and texting support through www.thelowdown.co.nz

Research tells us, however, that what young people need first and foremost are strong connections to people who care about them at home, in school and in their communities. Strong, supportive family relationships, especially with their parents or the people closest to them, are very important to young people.

For men, the role John Kirwan has played in television commericals, promotional and awareness raising work and also his contribution to www.depression.org.nz is widely recognised as having contributed significantly to the reduction in stigma associated with mental illness and, along with the work of the Like Minds, Like Mine Programme, has seen men seeking help and treatment earlier than they previously would have done.

For Maori, the implementation of Te Whakauruora, a Maori suicide prevention resource, has delivered approaches that, although it’s early days, can make a real difference for Maori communities.

The Mental Health Foundation also has a wide range of information on risk factors and warning signs of suicide, common myths about suicide, understanding suicide across cultures, how to help someone at risk, what to do in a crisis, and what you can do to look after yourself.

“Although there is no room for complacency, it is heartening to see that tangible work is being done in the area of suicide prevention, but it is an area where we can all have a role to play,” Ms Clements says.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
SPINZ has recently produced a new resource Responding to people at risk of suicide - How can you and your organisation help? It is intended to provide organisations and individuals with easily accessible information concerning appropriate responses to managing suicide and self harm. It will be useful for organisations and individuals who do not have a primary role in supporting people at risk of suicide, but may have contact with people at risk of suicide as part of their core business.

Judi Clements (Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation) & Merryn Statham (Director, Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand, a part of the Mental Health Foundation) are available for media comment.

ENDS

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