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Gov Suicide Prevention Strategy a major disappointment

Commenting on the Government’s Suicide Prevention Plan, “Every Life Matters: He Tapu te Oranga o ia tangata released by the Prime Minister today, a leading suicide prevention expert, Barry Taylor, describes the strategy as full of motherhood statements, vague and lacking in detail and disjointed.

“The only strategic direction this plan will take this country is to more suicides, said Mr Taylor. “While it is a slight improvement on that poorly written draft strategy from two years ago, it lacks a sound programme logic in which to monitor the progress of the plan along the way and fails to address fundamental determinants of suicide. It speaks to me of a government and a Ministry of Health unsure of what to do in regard to suicide”

Mr Taylor who has worked in suicide prevention for over thirty years at the local, national and international levels and who led the first national response to youth suicide in the late 1980’s expressed great disappointment and frustration in the lack of progress in tackling suicide in this country. He has sat on numerous government advisory bodies overseas and participated in the development and evaluation of national suicide prevention strategies

“In the past twelve there have been two major documents that is meant to provide the direction for suicide prevention in this country. A task which I believe both failed in. The suicide prevention recommendations in Mental Health Inquiry “He Ara Oranga” were so broad that it was difficult to identify from the report a clear pathway forward” said Mr Taylor. “The recommendations basically reflected the status quo thinking in suicide prevention and lacked a bold vision, innovative solutions or guidance on the necessary refocusing of our suicide prevention efforts,” he said. And now we have a strategy that is wanting in so many aspects. It certainly does not reflect the World Health Organisation recommended approach to developing national plans.”

Since arriving back in New Zealand two years ago Mr Taylor has travelled from Kaitaia to Invercargill providing training and advisory to a number of organisations. “This has given me a very comprehensive understanding of what is being done around the country and the challenges in developing effective programmes. Sadly many of the DHB suicide prevention plans are also very lacking and are a disconnect from the reality in their communities.” said Mr Taylor

“For over thirty years I have sat and listened to the anguish and the despair of countless suicidal people and I have seen far too many family and friends devastated by the suicide of loved ones. The increasing numbers of people dying by suicide is tragic enough, but for me what is even more tragic is that the underlying reasons for the anguish and the despair has not changed in the those thirty plus years. Sadly I do not see this upward trend in suicide rates changing anytime soon and when I read the various national and DHB suicide prevention action plans I am not confident that much of current public policy will in fact reverse this trend. In fact New Zealanders could be justified in wondering if we have been served well by suicide prevention policy over the past ten years.” said Mr Taylor.

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