16 May 2017

Suicide prevention plan a 'meaningless statement'

7:59 am on 16 May 2017

The government's draft plan to reduce suicide rates is toothless, the Mental Health Foundation says.

Comedian-turned-advocate Mike King was critical of the plan and yesterday announced he was quitting the government's suicide prevention panel.

Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said without specific targets, the plan was a "meaningless statement".

The government needed to put its money where its mouth is by setting a target, Mr Robinson said.

"What many people are looking for ... is some really clear commitment and leadership from government to say 'enough is enough'."

Without that there was no way of holding the government to account, he said.

The 'draft framework to prevent suicide' diagram in the draft plan.

The 'draft framework to prevent suicide' diagram in the draft plan. Photo: Ministry of Health

The draft states its strategy has three parts - "vision, purpose and pathways".

Those pathways include: "building positive wellbeing throughout people's lives", "recognising and appropriately supporting people in distress", and "relieving the impact of suicidal behaviour on people's lives".

Read the draft plan in full

"To achieve the shared vision of this strategy, everyone - including individuals, families, whānau, hapū, iwi, non-governmental organisations, employers, businesses, health and social services and government agencies - needs to be involved and work together to prevent suicidal behaviour," the plan said, under the heading "Turning the shared vision into action".

Each year more than 500 people commit suicide in New Zealand.

Mr Robinson called for a 20-percent reduction target by 2030 as a first step to keep in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

Ministry director of mental health John Crawshaw said he would not commit to a target number but it was likely to come up in submissions from the public on the plan.

"There comes a point when you're preparing documents where you have to go out to the community.

"We're really trying to get as much feedback as possible, and if nothing else this debate and this discussion on radio encourages people to look at the document and to make submissions."

Mr Crawshaw said he was disappointed by Mr King's decision but understood his position and hoped he would continue to give feedback to the panel.

The plan is open for consultation on the Ministry of Health's website until 12 June.

The Mental Health Foundation would make submissions on the draft plan during the consultation process, Mr Robinson said.

PM downplays King's resignation from panel

 Mike King

Mike King Photo: supplied

Mr King called the Ministry's draft suicide prevention "deeply flawed" and an "ass-covering exercise" for the government.

He said he was assured the panel would do something fresh, new and exciting to tackle the growing number of people taking their lives.

He had thought the panel was going to recommend a target of reducing the suicide rate by 20 percent in a decade's time.

Prime Minister Bill English said he would have liked Mr King to stay on, but was not surprised his direct approach did not work well with the Ministry of Health.

"He's got quite a different style, and it's got its place, it's very effective. And it probably doesn't suit him sitting around in meetings talking in generalities," he said.

"There's nothing to prevent him from getting his opinion across to politicians and anyone else who will listen, he does great work, it's very valuable work, I'm sure he's saved lives with the work he's done."

Labour Party deputy leader Jacinda Ardern said Mr King's sudden departure was further evidence the government was failing on mental health.

"It is a massive red flag around the progress that really isn't, unfortunately, being made on mental health issues generally.

"For him to withdraw in this way should send warning bells to the government - not that they shouldn't have heard those already."

Where to get help relating to suicide and mental health:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (24/7)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who might be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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