3 Oct 2017

Teen's suicide cited in schools' mental health project

8:18 pm on 3 October 2017

Wellington student Alatauai Sasa's suicide after relentless bullying is being cited as a reason to trial a project putting mental health specialists in schools.

Alatauai Sasa was bullied online in the lead-up to her death and was distressed about being a court witness against her father

Alatauai Sasa was bullied online in the lead-up to her death and was distressed about being a court witness against her father. Photo: Youtube

Coroner Peter Ryan today released his findings into the 15-year-old's death in 2013, saying she had been the victim of relentless and "vicious" cyber-bullying.

Mr Ryan also found the guidance counsellor at St Catherine's College, where Alatauai went to school, had a huge workload in dealing with problems like this, often handling up to 25 students' cases, and about 100 students each year.

Mr Ryan called on the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to provide more help, saying they should arrange for social workers, and nurses trained in mental health to be placed in or to be associated with secondary schools.

The Ministry of Education said this afternoon all young people deserved a safe physical and emotional environment in which to live, learn and grow.

To help achieve that, the government announced in Budget 2017 in May an $11 million pilot to provide specialist mental health services in school as part of its $100m health package.

"Alatauai Sasa's death, and the circumstances surrounding it, are tragic and we would like to extend our condolences to her family and friends," said ministry manager Katrina Casey.

"We are working with the Ministry of Health to explore the type of mental health specialists required and the locations of greatest need are also being considered, Ms Casey said.

"This may include clinical psychologists, doctors or nurses who would be contracted specifically to work with the Communities of Learning / Kāhui Ako with a special focus on youth mental health.

"The programme will focus on the early identification of potential mental health issues, and provide onsite access to mental health care so students can get the support they need.

"We aim to get the pilot under way by the middle of next year and our evaluation of the outcomes will inform what a model might look like for wider provision of these services," she said.

Where to get help

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111

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