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Call to arms on suicide

A Maori-led series of suicide prevention initiatives has been launched the same week the Government announced its own suicide prevention strategy Every Life Matters.

National Maori Authority chairman and former Suicide Prevention Australia chairman Matthew Tukaki announced the series — the first of which will be available online from September 25.

“Government inaction and more of the same business model of mental health service provision is not addressing the challenge of the daily struggle of life many New Zealanders face,” Mr Tukaki said.

The initiatives have been designed for all New Zealanders, with a focus on Maori men.

The Government’s strategy, while welcomed, was criticised for not including a specific Maori suicide prevention element.

The Mental Health Foundation acknowledged the Government’s strategy strengthened its commiment to Maori, but highlighted the fact that “evidence and history demonstrate this will not change without empowering and resourcing Maori whanau, iwi and communities to work to develop their own solutions”.

In announcing their own suicide prevention series, Mr Tukaki stressed “it’s through all of us pulling in the same direction across our communities where we can have the greatest impact”.

“We need to understand that suicide is not just about mental health, it’s about true prevention, addressing the elephant in the room, which is the challenge of the daily struggle of life.

“I am announcing a package of new initiatives that come straight back to community involvement and connection.”

The first new initiative is called How To Have a Korero (conversation) and will be available online from September 25.

It will contain resources for recognising the signs a loved one or friend might be in trouble, how to have a conversation and what to do next.

It will also include referral links and resources for issues such as relationships, finance and housing.

“Importantly it will be home to some simple resources around setting up the second initiative, that is, a national network of talking (korero) circles, community-led and governed,” says Mr Tukaki.

“It’s often in these age-old environments that people tend to open up and others tend to render help. That’s why the talking and listening skills side of things will be so important.”

Mr Tukaki says they will also increase the network of volunteers active in communities but often left out of workforce development plans and strategies.

“Let’s harness the power of our community instead of leaving them to operate in a vacuum.”

The third initiative is a series of “out-of-the-box” health promotion campaigns aimed at men in places that men meet.

“They will be very simple messages such as how to talk and listen, and will be located in clubs and pubs and on walls by urinals and in barber shops across the country.

“I’ll encourage all of these organisations to get on board and simply download the posters and display them. The truth is men, whether Maori or non-Maori, will often not seek help from a GP or a mental health professional, so let’s get them on that path to help-seeking in messages and in locations where they are more likely to get on board,” Mr Tukaki says.

No funds were made available from the Government or district health boards.

“This is solely a combined initiative between the National Maori Nga Ngaru and the New Zealand Maori Council.

“So this is a call to arms to our communities, our sporting clubs, gangs, community groups, men and women, young, the middle-aged and the not-so-young. Let’s all pull together and prevent suicide in Aotearoa.”