Community unites against suicide

There will be few people in the Far North who have not been affected or touched by suicide.  From early May through to August 2016, there have been six suspected suicides in Kaitaia, ranging between 17 and 25 years.

“Each death leaves a devastating trail of unanswered questions “what if….if only….I should have…” for each individual’s loved ones, whānau, friends, and community,” offered Ellen Norman, Director of Māori Development, Mental Health Foundation.

“The death of any person is a tragedy.  While we support each other, we must remember to acknowledge our strengths, and not suggest that more suicides are inevitable. Together, we can work on suicide prevention and help vulnerable people who need us to walk alongside them and support their recovery.”

Northland DHB has a suicide prevention plan in place and is working cooperatively and collaboratively to support those in need.

“We provide a range of specialist services for adults and for child and youth and older people and this includes 24/7 on call crisis service located in Kaitaia,” offered Ian McKenzie, general manager, mental health & addiction services.

“To ensure that our service meets the health needs of the people of the Far North we have increased our staffing level by five in recent years in Kaitaia and we have a strong base of staff who live and work in the local community.”

The Far North Local Response Group (LRG) was developed in 2012 with local experienced providers to connect and support whānau and community. This committed group of individuals continues to collaborate and prioritise suicide prevention, to reduce risk and increase protective factors.

The Far North LRG continues to develop and strengthen its membership across Kaitaia and acknowledges that individual members have wider associations with their community and networks. To this end there is a strong willingness to collaborate with this work in its many layers.  The re-development of the Far North RAID attached to Ngāti Hine Health Trust is part of the local collaborative response.

“We continue to endorse this approach which includes a level of analysis across this situation now and over a longer period of time so we can better understand where assistance is required.”

In addition to the Far North Mental Health & Addition Services, Northland DHB employs a resilience programme leader to work with suicide prevention and the drivers of suicide such as family harm and bullying.

“Although we recognise the impact that events such as suicide have on our staff, we are not a service in crisis,” Ian says. “There are always two staff on call after hours and our close-knit team of staff are available to assist the crisis team if required.

“Our staff are absolutely dedicated to the community that they live and work in.”

A draft Kaitaia strategy is currently being reviewed that aims to build whānau and community capacity to identify and respond appropriately to risk factors in their own whānau/hapu and community.

The Rangatahi Māori Suicide Prevention fund administered by Te Puni Kokiri identifies and supports community-led initiatives aimed at building whānau resilience.  This will build on work that has occurred and work planned for in relation to suicide prevention.

In addition, UPSTANDER, a programme which builds on the success of Matanui, will be toured throughout Northland in term 2, 2017 to help rangatahi be more resourceful in recognising strategies to reduce/eliminate bullying and/or family harm.

Suicides are preventable and communities play a critical role in suicide prevention. It’s important that we know who might be vulnerable and need extra support, and what warning signs to look out for and what to do when we spot them. Someone may be at higher risk of suicide if they have:

  • previously attempted suicide
  • experienced depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness
  • lost a friend, relative or loved one to suicide
  • been a victim of violence or sexual abuse
  • no connection to whānau, friends or community
  • no sense of identity
  • been through a major life change.

If you are worried about someone – what can you do?

  • Identify the hour-by-hour support or tautoko they need. Remove items they may use to harm themselves, and don’t leave them alone if they have a plan to take their life
  • Support them to access professional help by making an emergency appointment with your GP or your local mental health services.  You can call the Mental Health Crisis any time, 24/7, on 0800 223 377.  If it is an emergency – you or someone you know is in immediate danger – call 111.

Often, people who are thinking about taking their own life will try to let someone know, but won’t say so directly. This doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted – support and connection with whānau, friends and culture can help them to find a way through.

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