Suicide Prevention Office to drive action to save lives

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
  • Hon Dr David Clark
Prime Minister Health

The Government has announced a Suicide Prevention Office will be established to coordinate action already underway to reduce New Zealand’s historically high rate of suicide.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark have today released Every Life Matters - The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2019–2029 and Action Plan 2019–2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Plan has three main focus areas:

  • Promoting wellbeing
  • Responding to suicidal distress and behaviour
  • Supporting individuals, whānau and communities after a suicide

“Our rate of suicide is a long-term national tragedy and has been for many years. Change will take time but this plan and the actions the Government has already in place are an important start,” Jacinda Arden said.

“At the election we promised to take mental health seriously, and we are. The Suicide Prevention Office provides a focus for the range of on the ground initiatives contained in the Plan that it will take to reduce the number of New Zealanders taking their own life.

“There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but the range of actions we are taking will mean better support people in distress.

“As well as rolling out new frontline mental health services in places like GP clinics we have already started to tackle this problem with a range of initiatives underway to reduce the number of suicides, including:

  • Increasing suicide prevention services in DHBs, including more post-discharge support
  • Supporting tailored Māori and Pacific suicide prevention initiatives
  • Funding to improve support for 15,000 people who turn up at hospital emergency departments experiencing a mental health crisis or at risk of suicide
  • Expanding the information and resources available to family and whānau of those experiencing suicidal distress
  • Funding free counselling for 2,500 people (per year) bereaved by suicide, whom research shows can be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts themselves.

“The range of actions the Government is taking require more funding which is why we made a record $1.9 billion investment into mental health and addiction in Budget 2019, including $40 million into suicide prevention.

“We know there is more work to do, and not all the answers will be found in Wellington. So we will continue to work with local communities and people with lived experience as we develop further initiatives and services,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Health Minister David Clark says today’s announcements deliver on two of the key recommendations of the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, He Ara Oranga.

“One suicide is one suicide too many. I firmly believe the Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan set us on a path towards fewer deaths from suicide. And the Suicide Prevention Office will provide strong leadership and monitor progress in delivering on the Plan.

“Strengthening our mental health services and reducing the rate of suicide are long-term challenges, but are key priorities for the Government.

“It will take time to build new services and new facilities and expand and upskill our mental health workforce – but we’re getting on with the job,” David Clark said.

NOTE: Every Life Matters - The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2019–2029 and Action Plan 2019–2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand is attached.

About the Suicide Prevention Office:
The Suicide Prevention Office will be housed and supported by the Ministry of Health initially, with the intention of becoming a stand-alone Office in coming years.

It will provide central leadership and better coordination of suicide prevention work. The Office will lead the health aspect of suicide prevention and work to provide with other Government agencies to clarify their roles in preventing suicide. It will also report on progress implementing Every Life Matters.

The Office will be led by the Director of Suicide Prevention. An announcement on that appointment will be made shortly.

A lived experience advisory group and Māori advisory group will also be established to work with the Office.