Suicide Prevention Office part of Government's plan to 'take mental health seriously'

Suicide Prevention Office part of Government's plan to 'take mental health seriously'
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A Suicide Prevention Office will be established as part of the Government's plan to "support people in distress" and help bring down New Zealand's high suicide rate.

The financial details of the office have not been disclosed, but it will be housed and supported by the Ministry of Health initially, with the intention of becoming standalone in "coming years".

It will be established as part of the Government's Suicide Prevention Strategy 2019-2029 and Action Plan 2019-2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The office will provide "central leadership and better coordination" of suicide prevention work, a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister and Health Minister said.

It will lead the health aspect of suicide prevention and work with other Government agencies to clarify their roles in preventing suicide.

In addition, a "lived experience advisory group" and "Māori advisory group" will also be established to work with the office.

A Director of Suicide Prevention will be appointed "shortly".

New Zealand's suicide rates increased in the last year. In the year to June 30, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year. 

The Government now says it wants to "enhance prevention information, guidance and resources" to bring down the suicide rate. 

Its plan to reduce suicides in New Zealand focuses on "promoting wellbeing", "responding to suicide distress and behaviour", and "supporting individuals, whānau and communities after a suicide". 

Joint funding options to "enable better cross-government coordination and support for community participation" in preventing suicide will be "explored". 

A national suicide bereavement counselling service will also be developed, including support for first responders and mental health professionals.

In addition, a national research plan that "identifies and addresses gaps in suicide prevention and postvention information, data and research and supports ongoing coordination of research" will be developed. 

The Government also wants to "facilitate easier access to current research" on suicide. 

The plan will be reviewed by the Suicide Prevention Office. 

"We know there is more work to do, and not all the answers will be found in Wellington," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. 

"We will continue to work with local communities and people with lived experience as we develop further initiatives and services.

"At the election we promised to take mental health seriously, and we are."

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. 

The plan follows the Government's announcement on Sunday that $6 million has been allocated for under-funded mental health services across New Zealand. 

There are also plans to roll out free frontline services worth $30 million over the next five years.

The Government announced a $1.9 billion investment into mental health and addiction in Budget 2019, including $40 million into suicide prevention.

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