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Let’s talk Suicide

Let’s talk Suicide

Should we talk about suicide? In recent days there have been a number of articles discussing this very topic - Sue Nicholson, mother of Ollie who died in 2009, and Timaru GP Dr Oliver Bourke in today’s Herald to name just two. Research has been cited, experts consulted and families silenced.

Missing from this conversation to date is the voice of those who work on the frontline, counselling and emotionally supporting vulnerable New Zealanders considering suicide, and training communities to have these conversations safely.

These people are the backbone of Lifeline Aotearoa, an organisation that has answered calls, from people in crisis and thinking about suicide, for the past fifty years. We support the calls from Sue Nicholson, Dr Oliver Bourke and countless others to be open about suicide.

“Our telephone counsellors work 24 hours, 365 days of the year and are trained in ASIST, the best-available, evidence-based suicide intervention training in the world,” says Jo Denvir, CEO of Lifeline Aotearoa.

“There are ways to talk about suicide safely and it’s our speciality. It’s not a matter of a few ‘do’s and donts', there is a lot of evidence to support how this should occur and it is different depending on the setting.”

Lifeline’s approach in New Zealand is community wide. Delivering a range of grass roots training's across New Zealand, sitting on community action groups to help develop suicide prevention plans and working with District Health Boards and government agencies to better respond to people thinking about suicide.

“We have strong international links to Lifelines branches across the world, this includes access to their research, best practice models, campaigns and training. Internationally, Lifeline is regarded as experts in suicide crisis, in fact Lifeline Suicide Crisis Hotlines are funded everywhere in the world except here in New Zealand.” says Ms Denvir.

Ms Denvir believes New Zealand should not be afraid to focus its funding on suicide intervention and recovery. The World Health Organisation stipulates that crisis helplines should be a part of every country’s suicide prevention strategy.

“Wellness is the new catchphrase for funders – and this makes sense for a population wide campaign, but it does nothing for the individual who doesn’t understand why they no longer want to live.”

“What if the person doesn’t think they are depressed? What if they do not think they have an alcohol, drug or gambling addiction issue, or require support from Healthline or a mental health team? Where do they go? They call Lifeline.”

Lifeline answers thousands of specifically suicide related calls per year.

"Wellness focused activities will not stop the thoughts of suicide occurring in one in seventeen New Zealanders this year,” says Ms Denvir.

"Perhaps the question is not whether we should talk about suicide, but rather why are we not taking suicide seriously in this country? People, communities and non government organisations like Lifeline, are doing their very best on the bare minimum of government investment and we wonder why the rates continue to climb.

Ms Denvir says this a conversation New Zealand needs to have. “It’s ironic really, that as a country we say we need to talk about suicide, but then we don’t fund our only Suicide Crisis Helpline - a safe place where people desperate to understand why they no longer want to live can talk openly about suicide with a trained professional.”


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