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Every Life Matters

Opinion Piece

The release of a new suicide prevention strategy yesterday, World Suicide Prevention Day, was welcomed by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) of New Zealand as providing the roadmap and tools needed to prevent suicides.

“Not only this, it will help to ensure New Zealanders have lives worth living — it does not seek simply to keep people alive but to build an Aotearoa where everyone can enjoy good mental health and wellbeing,” said MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson.

The presence of tireless mental health campaigner Mike King as the strategy — Every Life Matters — was announced also spoke volumes, after his resignation from a government-led suicide prevention panel two years ago amid criticism of a draft strategy that King said had not even evaluated the previous strategy’s pros and cons.

MHF welcomed the new strategy’s focus on: Early support — ensuring mental health problems do not have to escalate before help is available; Supporting the whanau and communities of those at risk; A commitment to listening to and learning from people who have lived experience of being suicidal and those who are suicide-bereaved; Investing in kaupapa Maori approaches (which were already operating with success around Aotearoa) and Pasifika approaches; Workforce development for those who work in mental health and suicide prevention; Trauma-informed care that looks at patients as people and works in partnership with them towards recovery; A commitment to honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi; Investment in counselling for those who are bereaved by suicide; A focus on using evidence and collective knowledge; Promoting the wellbeing of all New Zealanders, “ensuring we each have the tools and skills we need to draw on when times get tough”.

MHF was disappointed there was no specific Maori suicide prevention strategy, while acknowledging that Every Life Matters had a strengthened commitment to Maori — who bore a disproportionate burden of suicide — and to reducing inequities and improving mental health outcomes for Maori.

MHF also said it was “extremely supportive” of the establishment of a Suicide Prevention Office, as there had been “a vacuum of leadership in suicide prevention for years”.