Mike King supports Government's Suicide Prevention Strategy, believes 'in the direction we are going'

The current Government isn't just paying "lip service" to New Zealand's suicide problem like the previous Government did, says mental health advocate Mike King.

On Tuesday, the Government detailed its Suicide Prevention Strategy, which includes the establishment of a Suicide Prevention Office to provide centralised leadership to deal with the issue.

Led by a Director of Suicide Prevention, the office will work alongside a "lived experience advisory group" and a "Māori advisory group". Its plan to reduce New Zealand's suicide rates will focus on "promoting wellbeing", "responding to suicide distress and behaviour", and "supporting individuals, whānau and communities after a suicide". 

King, who appeared alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark at Tuesday's announcement, praised the plan.

"I believe in this action plan. I believe in the direction that we are going in," King said at the press conference.

He said New Zealand is moving in the right direction, unlike under the previous Government.

"The last Government paid nine years of lip service and did absolutely nothing... this Government did in two years what the last Government didn't do in nine years," he announced.

Although there have been complaints about the time taken to get to this point, King argued that the Government has kept New Zealand in the loop throughout its two years of consultation.

"We have been briefed the whole way... they have gone out into the communities and talked to actual people who are at the frontline," he said.

King also spoke out against "the myth" of targets, saying they create an illusion of "doing a great job".

"I'm absolutely fine with there being no target... If there are 700 people in a burning building, go and save 20 percent of them, walk out and tell me you're happy with the 20 percent. I am never going to be happy.

"The target should always be zero. I am over people saying if we can save one life it is all worth it. If we are not saving them all, we are failing and need to do better."

King supports the inclusivity of the plan, saying all New Zealanders can now become a part of the solution.

Support will be offered to district health boards (DHBs) to develop and update population-based suicide prevention plans, and rainbow communities will be consulted to develop guidance on suicide prevention. 

King urged New Zealanders to unite to fight the statistics.

"Everybody needs to put their swords down. Stop playing politics with people's lives and come together as a country. Let's all do something about this."

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