Ministry of Health reject allegations of misleading John Key over suicide crisis

  • 05/07/2017
Ministry of Health reject allegations of misleading John Key over suicide crisis
Photo credit: File

The Ministry of Health has rejected allegations that it misinformed former Prime Minister John Key about the scale of the 2012 suicide crisis.

In 2012, 144 young people took their own lives, 19 of whom were from Northland.

NZME reported allegations that the Ministry had not informed Mr Key about the severity of the situation in Northland as it was unfolding. 

Dame Tariana Turia, who was Associate Health Minister at the time, told Newshub she believes officials didn't adequately inform the Government of the situation.

Dame Tuira said after the spike of suicides in 2012, resources were brought in to support families and other students at Kamo High, where two suicides within a month prompted some copycat attempts.

"But the problem is we sent people in to work with these families and then we go back to being dismissive about the issue so the numbers climb again, as they have."

Even though mental health programmes are proven to reduce suicides, Dame Tuira said they struggle due to insufficient funding.

"We worry about the cost, because there's only x-amount of dollars in the health budget, but we shouldn't be counting the cost in people's lives that have been lost.

"It's horrendous…in government we rely on the advice of officials, and if officials are not bold and brave enough then we don't get the right response.

"And we were quite unaware of the huge numbers who were dying up there in the north."

However, The Ministry of Health rejects any allegations that they didn't inform then Prime Minister John Key of what was happening in Northland.

A spokesperson told Newshub "there was no intention not to inform the Prime Minister of the time. Nor should there be any suggestion we were inappropriately withholding information from anyone else. A number of Ministers were regularly receiving information at the time."

Director of Mental Health Dr John Crawshaw, told NZME that detailed information about events in Northland was regularly provided to Ministers and Associate Ministers at the time, and staff from a number of agencies were very concerned about the tragic events in Northland.

New Zealand's teen suicide rate is the worst in the developed world.