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Ministry Of Health Remains Committed To Suicide Prevention

Robyn Shearer, Deputy Director-General, Clinical Community and Mental Health: 

The Ministry of Health remains committed to ensuring there is strong and visible leadership of suicide prevention in any new organisational structure and has provided that assurance to the Minister of Mental Health. 

The Minister has stated his expectation that the Suicide Prevention Office remains open. As a result, we are developing options to work through with the Minister early next week. 

We acknowledge we did not sufficiently brief the Minister of Mental Health on our change proposals. The Ministry is sorry for the confusion that this has caused. 

Mental health, addiction and suicide prevention are health system priorities. Following the health sector reforms, the roles and functions across the Ministry of Health were changed and programmes and services were transferred to other health agencies. The Ministry of Health is the chief advisor to the new Minister for Mental Health and leads a whole of government approach to mental wellbeing. 

About the Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) 

The Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) was established, as one of the recommendations of He Ara Oranga, in 2019 to provide leadership and stewardship for suicide prevention efforts. 

A key focus of the Office was the ongoing implementation of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2019–2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand: He Tapu te Oranga and Budget 2019 suicide prevention and postvention initiatives of $40m over four years. 

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This was a small team within the Mental Health and Addiction directorate of the Ministry of Health. It has never been a stand alone office. 

Following the health reforms on 1 July 2022; budget, planning and commissioning functions for suicide prevention and postvention initiatives moved to Health New Zealand, which later transferred the programmes and services of the work to Te Aka Whai Ora. 

The Suicide Prevention Office remained within the Ministry of Health, but with a focus on strategy, policy, regulation and monitoring the outcomes achieved by the system as a whole. The team responsible for these residual functions remained within the Ministry of Health's Clinical Community and Mental Health directorate. 

The proposals that Ministry of Health staff are being consulted on include bringing together suicide prevention expertise with the expertise of our lived experience, system insights and clinical teams. The purpose of combining these skillsets is to elevate the importance of suicide prevention within the broader mental health work programme. 

The Ministry has no further comment and will not be providing interviews.

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