MHF calls for unified action to prevent suicide
29th August 2017
The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is devastated by the increase in provisional suicides released today.
The statistics show that 606 people died by suspected suicide in the 2016/2017 year, the third year in a row that the number of suspected suicides has increased.
“The figures are shocking, and I want firstly to extend my sincerest condolences to all those who have lost someone to suicide,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says.
“Losing someone to suicide can be especially hard to cope with. We know that days like today, when everyone is talking about suicide, can be extremely difficult. Take care and keep in touch with your support people. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
Many people who die by suicide believe that they are a burden to their loved ones and the world would be better without them.
“If that’s true for you please talk to someone today. A friend, a family member, a helpline. You deserve help and support to get through this.”
The increase in numbers is a sobering reflection on the failure of New Zealand to come together to prevent suicide in a coordinated way.
Thousands of people all around the country are working to prevent suicide and many positive programmes and initiatives are in place. However, the lack of a unified suicide prevention strategy that spells out the role and responsibilities of all government agencies, communities and individuals means that much of this work lacks direction and occurs in small pockets around New Zealand.
“It’s time for us all to come together and turn this situation around,” Mr Robinson says. “The widespread criticism of the draft suicide prevention strategy demonstrates that the government needs to work much harder to develop a plan for significant change that he community is inspired by and supports. A target for reducing deaths would be a good step in the right direction
“It’s time to resource schools to adequately care for students in distress, to end bullying and teach young people the skills they need to cope when life gets difficult.
“It’s time for sustained investment in mental health services, including well-resourced and supported crisis services, universal access to early mental health care and a strong, unflinching examination of what is working in our mental health system and what is not.”
The MHF is determined that as a country New Zealand must start to address the drivers of poor mental health and suicide.
“There is no denying that social factors such as poverty, inequality, racism and homophobia contribute to our suicide rate,” Mr Robinson says.
“However we have not yet enacted policies that address these issues as part of a mental health strategy. It’s time for this to change.”
On a community and individual level, the MHF believes there is still work to do to empower communities and individuals to feel confident and safe to support and intervene when someone they know is in distress.
“Over the last few years, much has been done to increase awareness of suicide,” Mr Robinson says. “It’s time to focus on suicide prevention. It’s no good being aware that suicide happens and is a problem if we’re not giving people the skills to actually act to prevent suicide.”
While the causes of suicide are complex, the solutions don’t have to be. We all have a role to play in preventing suicide. Here are three things we can each do:
Keep an eye out, then act: Trust your gut. Most of us can tell when others are going through a difficult time. If you notice someone is withdrawn, isolated, angry, talking about death or suicide or seems to feel worthless, it’s time to act. This can be scary, but it’s better to be wrong than be silent. Tell them what you’ve noticed and ask how you can help. Listen, without judgement, to their answers. If they have a plan to take their life they need urgent help, so call the mental health crisis team or take them straight to ED. If they’re not in crisis, keep them talking, build a support network around them and you so no one is carrying this alone. Read more: Are you worried someone is thinking of suicide?
Take the load off someone else: Many people who are at risk of suicide feel isolated, like they don’t belong or fit in anywhere. If they’re being discriminated against for any reason (including having mental health problems, their gender or sexuality, race, culture or religion) then this is an added burden. While this is a heavy load to carry, it’s quite easy for us to take that load off. Reach out to people in your life who seem lonely or alone, make small connections with them and keep it up. Make an effort to understand and accept people who are different. These small acts of connection can make a huge difference.
Let other people help you: If you’re feeling suicidal you deserve help. Give yourself a chance and talk to someone. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help – it’s the bravest thing you can do. You deserve care and support – ask for it. Talk to someone you trust. Go to your doctor or straight to the ED. Call a helpline. Don’t ever believe that you aren’t worthy of help or that no one can help you. Read more: Having suicidal thoughts and finding a way back
The media can help to prevent suicide by increasing awareness of suicide prevention. This can include discussion of warning signs, what to do when you see them, how to ask for help and where to go for help. This information and more can be found at www.mentalhealth.org.nz/suicideprevention