28 Jul 2011

Intervention needed to fight suicide - community worker

5:55 am on 28 July 2011

A veteran Maori community worker says cutting tangi short will not stop young people killing themselves - but intensive intervention will.

Ricky Houghton, who runs Kaitaia's He Korowai Trust, says he can not support the suggestion made by MP Te Ururoa Flavell that people who commit suicide should have different Maori burial rituals.

Mr Flavell, the MP for the Bay of Plenty-based seat of Waiariki, has suggested people who take their own lives should only have a one-day tangi and should be buried at the front of a burial ground so their actions can be publicised.

Mr Houghton says that after six Far North teenagers committed suicide in one terrible week last year the District Health Board appointed a counsellor to work intensively with young people and the spate of deaths stopped.

He says mental health workers in communities affected by suicide need to do the same: get out from behind their desks and offer help, instead of waiting for worried whanau to find them.

Shortening a funeral to show disapproval would damage the cultural practice itself as well as whanau trying to deal with their loss, he says.

Mr Houghton says it's up to the taumata kaumatua at a tangi to set the tone by defining the death as a selfish act and telling anyone else contemplating suicide where to go for help.