Working to prevent suicide

Suicide is a serious concern for New Zealand communities. Every year, around 500 New Zealanders die by suicide, with many more attempting suicide. This has a tragic impact on the lives of many others – families, whānau, friends, and workmates, communities and society as a whole.

The information on this page highlights some of the current initiatives led by government that are contributing to preventing suicide by enhancing protective factors or reducing risk factors.

Supporting communities

Waka Hourua – Suicide prevention in Māori and Pasifika communities

Te Rau Matatini and La Va have partnered as Waka Hourua to deliver the National Suicide Prevention Programme for Māori and Pasifika communities. Since its establishment in 2014, Waka Hourua have funded a wide range of Māori and Pasifika community-based initiatives and research projects (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, Ministry of Health, Action 1.1).

Victim Support – Initial Response Postvention Service

Victim Support responds to the specific needs of family and friends bereaved by a suicide. Their specialised suicide postvention response service has now been extended to be available nationwide (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, New Zealand Police and Ministry of Health. Action 4.1).

Equipping frontline staff

Emergency departments

Emergency departments have an important role in caring for people who present as being at risk of suicide. Guidance has been developed for emergency department clinicians to improve the quality of care for this group of people. The guidance incorporates clinical risk assessment and referral pathways, but also focuses on the nature of interactions between the person and clinicians involved in their care. The guidance builds on, but does not replace, the 2003 Assessment and Management of People at Risk of Suicide guidelines (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, Ministry of Health, Action 6.2).

New Zealand Police

Recognising Police’s key role in responding to situations of distress in the community, mental health service users are sharing their experiences of interactions with Police. This process has helped inform the design of staff training – identifying the need to take extra time at the beginning, to be calm, respectful and listen, not dominate a situation, but instead ask what would help and empathise with how the person is feeling. Recruit training led by facilitators with experience of mental distress began in August 2014, and will be expanded across existing staff (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, New Zealand Police, Action 3.2).

Work and Income staff

Work and Income staff working face-to-face with clients are being trained to help them relate and respond to their clients who might be experiencing mental distress or mental illness. Staff report positively on the effect of the training on their work: ‘I will be asking some questions differently. Take a little more time with some clients. Not be too quick to judge people. I think there should be more workshops like this in all work places.’ (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, Ministry of Social Development. Action 3.3).

Supporting schools in suicide prevention – Ministry of Education

The resource Preventing and responding to suicide: Resource kit for schools has been distributed to all primary, intermediate and secondary schools in New Zealand, and is being further supported through training workshops for staff on how to use the guidelines (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, Ministry of Education, Action 2.3).

Child Youth and Family (CYF) social workers and caregivers

To support children and young people in contact with Child, Youth and Family (CYF) the social work assessment framework Tuituia now includes specific prompts to identify and assess the risk of suicide. Specialist training in recognising and responding to self-harm and suicide risk has also been provided to CYF caregivers around the country (New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016, Ministry of Social Development, Actions 7.1–7.4).

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