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Suicide rate among young Pacific people a tragedy

3 December 2010

Media Statement

Suicide rate among young Pacific people a tragedy

The likelihood that up to 130 young Pacific people will kill themselves in South Auckland this year is a tragedy for Pacific people and also for New Zealand, says Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio.

“No country can afford the avoidable loss of so many young people,” Su’a William Sio said. “Certainly the Pacific community in South Auckland cannot sustain this devastation among its young people. Ten young Pacific Islanders killed themselves in South Auckland last month alone.”

Su’a William Sio said the reasons young people took their lives were complex and highly individualised. “But past research has shown some common factors, so it’s not surprising perhaps that the suicide rate among young people is so high in South Auckland.

“With young Maori research has shown that the causes of suicide are frequently linked to poverty, unemployment and lack of education,” Su’a William Sio said. “In the case of young Pacific people, powerlessness has been identified as a significant factor --- having no control over their own lives.

“These feelings of powerlessness clearly have much to do with social factors, such as poverty, lack of employment and lack of education,” Su’a William Sio said. “Such factors have been aggravated in recent times.

“The unemployment rate for all Pacific people is more than double the national rate, while the unemployment rate for young Pacific people, aged 15 to 19, is 46.9 percent. Now the National Government is also making it clear that it sets no real value on teaching and preserving Pacific language skills, which are so essential both in terms of educational achievement and self-esteem.

“No wonder so many young people feel hopeless, and can be so easily driven to despair when perhaps other more personal issues intervene in their lives as well,” Su’a William Sio said.

“It is no good simply having 0800 numbers available for a young person to call when they are driven to the point of despair. Services and Intervention for Maori and Pacific youth require consideration of their cultural context and beliefs with the inclusion of a spiritual dimension which research shows contributes to their wellbeing, so mainstream services such as 0800 numbers don't work.

“More emphasis also should be placed on the Ministry of Health creating strong and meaningful partnerships with our communities and providing appropriate resourcing and support to address these issues. Under National there is a strong feeling in the Pacific community that the Government is moving away from establishing such genuine relationships, and is becoming more disconnected

“Young people need to believe they have a future, but in South Auckland it’s desperately hard for many of our young people to feel that way,” Su’a William Sio said.

ENDS

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