Govt needs to step up suicide prevention fight - Mike King

  • 29/08/2017

Mental health advocate Mike King says the Government's failure to change its approach is to blame for yet another increase in suicides.

Latest suicide figures revealed a record high 606 people took their lives in the last 12 months, 27 more than last year.

Mr King said the crisis was still not being taken as seriously by the Government as it should be.

"We discussed this last year and if you keep doing the same things you're going to keep getting the same results," he told The AM Show on Tuesday morning.

"Nothing's changed, has it? Unfortunately these numbers are going to continue to rise.

"Four-hundred-and-fifty-seven men took their lives - half of them reached out for help and help wasn't there. We've got services in crisis."

Mr King said even an election-year funding announcement from National failed to hit the mark - especially when considering how much funding has been promised for other initiatives.

"The Government announced the other day, with a whole lot of fanfare, that $100 million was being ring-fenced for suicide prevention. $100 million, and they said that was a big deal.

"They've just ring-fenced $160 million to put a second language into schools. $160 million for 30 weeks at one hour a week."

"There should be counsellors at every school in New Zealand. Our numbers are getting younger and younger. Thirteen children died in the last year."

Mr King expressed outrage that people who turn themselves in for mental health help are being turned away unless their condition is severe and they're able to prove it.

He also took aim at the threshold for what's deemed a suicide, saying the reality is there are many more suicides than official figures take into account.

'Involve Māori in decision-making'

Māori health agency Te Rau Matatini is calling for both Māori and young people to be heard in any decision-making around suicide prevention.

The suicide rate for Māori is the highest for any ethnic group, with its 130 deaths making up a significant portion of the 606 Kiwis who took their own lives over the last year.

Te Rau Matatini chief executive Maria Baker says the Government needs to step up.

"A lot more needs to be done, we need to be a little bit more collaborative. There's been a lot of conversation about setting that aspirational target of zero suicides. We seriously as New Zealand society need to be able to do that.

"But for Māori a lot of the resourcing and leadership needs to be driven by us - we need support."

Ms Baker says strong leadership in government is needed for changes to happen.

"There's certainly a lot of bottom up, a lot of community driven and family driven initiatives but we actually need quite a bit of top down, consistency in leadership and really strong messages and their willingness to be courageous enough in what needs to happen resource-wise."

Ms Baker says more involvement in discussions around suicide is critical.

"Because Māori are impacted by this issue we need to be part of the solution, what tends to happen is that there are well intended who may suggest some things but it won't work unless young people and Māori are involved from the beginning."

She says it's appalling that 13 people aged between 10 and 14 killed themselves over the last year.