10 Feb 2014

Suicide prevention strategy launched

7:18 pm on 10 February 2014

The Government has launched a programme to prevent suicide among Maori and Pacific people.

About 500 people in New Zealand take their own lives each year. In 2011, the Maori suicide rate was 1.8 times that of Pakeha and the rate among young Maori was 2.4 times that of their Pakeha peers.

In front of a packed Wellington conference on preventing suicide among Maori and Pacific people, Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia announced the new strategy Waka Hourua.

As part of the strategy, a national co-ordination centre to prevent suicide among Maori will be established, as will one for Pacific people.

Waka Hourua will have a heavy research agenda and a $2 million fund to help grassroots communities design their own suicide prevention approaches.

Ms Turia said national leadership group will guide the strategy and give it a unified national voice.

A Maori public health researcher from Otago University, who convened the symposium, said prevention strategies need to be led by rangatahi themselves.

Keri Lawson-Te Aho, of Ngati Kahungunu descent, said says too often adults overlook what young people have to say.

Dr Lawson-Te Aho said after trying some responses to suicide prevention over the years, she now believes that it is time to validate the whakaaro (thoughts) of young people.

She said health professionals need to hear directly from rangatahi about what they want to see happen to stop the high rates of youth suicide.