A devastating trail of questions

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Ellen Norman.
Ellen Norman.

Ellen Norman, the Mental Health Foundation's director of Māori development, doubts that there are many people in the Far North who have not been affected or touched by suicide.

Six suspected suicides had been reported in Kaitaia in the last four months, with those who took their lives ranging from 17 to 25 years.

"It's important that we know who might be vulnerable and needs extra support, what warning signs to look out for and what to do when we spot them."

"Someone could be at risk if they had previously attempted suicide, suffered depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness, had lost a friend, relative or loved one to suicide, been a victim of violence or sexual abuse, had no connection to whānau, friends or community, had no sense of identity, or had been through a major life change.

"The response should be to identify the hour-by-hour support needed, remove items they may use to harm themselves, and don't leave them alone, support their accessing of professional help by making an emergency appointment with their GP or local mental health services.

"You can call 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," he added.

"Often people who are thinking about taking their 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."

Experienced support

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

LRG continued to develop and strengthen its membership across Kaitaia, and acknowledged that individual members had wider associations with their community and networks. There was a strong willingness to collaborate.

The re-development of the Far North RAID, attached to the Ngāti Hine Health Trust, was part of that 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," Mr McKenzie said.

The DHB also employed a resilience programme leader to work in the field of 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," he added.

"There are always two staff on call after hours, and our close-knit team is available to assist the crisis team if required. Our staff are absolutely dedicated to the community in which they live and work."

A draft Kaitaia strategy was currently being reviewed, aimed at building whānau and community capacity to identify and respond appropriately to risk factors within whānau/hapu and the community.

The Rangatahi Māori Suicide Prevention fund, administered by Te Puni Kokiri, identified and supported community-led initiatives aimed at building whānau resilience, building on work already done and planned in relation to suicide prevention.

Focus on schools

In addition, UPSTANDER, a programme that built on the success of Matanui, would tour Northland in next year's second school term to help rangatahi adopt strategies to reduce/eliminate bullying and/or family harm.

"It's important that we know who might be vulnerable and needs extra support, what warning signs to look out for and what to do when we spot them."

Someone could be at risk if they had previously attempted suicide, suffered depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness, had lost a friend, relative or loved one to suicide, been a victim of violence or sexual abuse, had no connection to whānau, friends or community, had no sense of identity, or had been through a major life change.

The response should be to identify the hour-by-hour support needed, remove items they may use to harm themselves, and don't leave them alone, support their accessing of professional help by making an emergency appointment with their GP or local mental health services.

"You can call 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," he added.

"Often people who are thinking about taking their 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."

- Northland Age

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