Youth Suicide - The First in a Series of Actions

  • Deborah Morris
Youth Affairs

Deborah Morris today announced the first in a series of Government actions in an effort to prevent youth suicide.

In summary the initial work will deliver:

an information campaign aimed at parents and health professionals on how to identify and deal with those at risk of committing suicide;
improved delivery of mental health services for young people;
improved training for youth workers;
training for school Guidance Counsellors in the area of prevention, recognition and management of emotional distress and youth suicide;
the publication of media guidelines on the reporting of youth suicide;
an investigation of the best options to support community programmes targeting those most at risk of committing suicide.
"We need to be clear that there is no miracle cure to youth suicide. What we are going to see is a series of actions which can contribute to preventing youth suicide. I want to halt the increase in the rate of suicides, that will not be done over night.

"The first new Government initiatives will be to publish information for parents and health professionals. This will assist parents and health professionals identify people who are at risk of committing suicide, and give guidance as to how to respond.

"This is a first step, but a significant one. Figures show that at least 57% of young people who have committed suicide had, in the previous month, seen a health professional. This shows that health professionals, such as GPs, have a major role to play in helping to reduce our youth suicide rate.

"We need to ensure that wherever a young person fronts up for help that the people they see have the information and skills to deal with it.

"Over the next year the Government will be looking at how we can improve the training that is provided to people who have contact with young people, such as youth workers.

"A key finding from our consultation process was the need to improve access to youth mental health services. There is a danger that youth services are viewed as optional extras to an adult focused mental health system. This thinking has to shift to help young people in need. Significant work has been done in the area of adolescent mental health - but there is much more to do. The THA will report by May on plans to improve the delivery of mental health services for young people.

"The Government continues to fund many initiatives that already improve young people's self development. This includes youth development programmes, for example, the Conservation Corps and Youth Service Corps and a range of youth one-stop-shops. The government, private sector and community groups all have a responsibility to provide opportunities for young people to participate in activities that support their healthy development.

"Next year the Government will be looking at how best we can support community programmes that will help strengthen and support young people at risk of suicide.

"In addition to government action every New Zealander has to ask themselves 'what am I doing to take care of young people?'. We all need to communicate better and ensure that youth have all the support, information, and personal skills that they need when facing a crisis in their lives. Reducing youth suicide is the responsibility of every New Zealander.

"The submissions received following the release of 'An Approach for Action - the development of a national youth suicide prevention strategy ' were supportive of the current direction of the Government's work on this issue. Youth Affairs has taken this into account in its re-drafting and detailed re-working of the strategy," concluded Deborah Morris.

- ENDS -

Note to editors:
Government action already underway:

guidelines for schools for the prevention, recognition and management of young people at risk of suicide;
expansion of mental health services for children and young people as part of the Child and Youth Mental Health Policy by the Transitional Health Authority;
One-Stop health shops;
development of the Mental Health Matters curriculum;
Mental Health Foundation work with schools to develop suicide crisis-management plans;
guidelines for CYPFS staff on suicide prevention and the development of a screening tool;
publication of 'Young People and Depression' by the Mental Health Foundation (funded by 4 RHAs);
publication of guidelines on the treatment and management of depression by the National Health Committee;
development of 2 Maori Youth Programmes designed to increase motivation and self-esteem among long-term unemployed youth by Te Puni Kokiri.
For further information:
Moray Macdonald
Press Secretary
Tel: 04 471 9063, Mobile: 025 408 783


Help contacts
If you, or someone you know is feeling down and you think you might need help, you could try one of the following groups:

Tel: 0800 376 633

The Samaritans
Look under "S" in the phone book for local contact

Evening Mensline: 09 522 2500
Afternoon/Evening Kidsline: 09 522 2088

Auckland tel: 09 303 3585
Wellington tel: 04 385 0674
Christchurch tel: 03 373 4796
Dunedin tel: 03 477 2077

Rainbow Youth
A support organisation for gay and lesbian youth
Tel: 09 376 4155

Help Foundation
A sexual abuse counselling service for women and children
Tel: 09 623 1700

Rape Crisis
Tel: 04 384 7028