15 Nov 2017

Mayor pleads for suicidal young people to seek help

8:18 pm on 15 November 2017

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai is imploring young people in her city to reach out for help if they're feeling suicidal.

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai pleads with young people to seek help if they are considering suicide.

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai pleads with young people to seek help if they are considering suicide. Photo: Facebook

There've been at least three suspected suicides in Whangarei in the past week, two of them high school students.

Ms Mai, visibly upset, posted a video plea on her mayoral Facebook page after hearing about the latest death involving a 15-year-old girl.

She said it was incredibly sad that some young people in the north saw no hope for their futures.

"There is support in our community if you need it," she said.

"Please, if you're considering suicide, talk to someone. Make the most of your friendships. Please don't become another one who's lost hope."

"If there's anything we can do to help, please let us know."

Northland DHB said it had been notified of three suspected suicides in the past week.

One was the 15-year-old girl, one a boy aged just 13, and one a 22-year-old Kerikeri man.

Community workers dealing with bereaved whānau said at least two more deaths were suspected suicides.

Kahui Neho, an experienced mental health nurse who founded the Green Ribbon suicide prevention group in Whangarei in 2013, said the most common factors in youth suicide were abuse, bullying, and feelings of isolation.

She said added pressures piled on at this time of year.

"We've got the pressure now with our school kids with exams ... there are anniversaries like Christmas - for instance, they may be suffering their first Christmas without their grandfather, without a loved one - that's a huge contributing factor," she said.

Families needed to be pro-active at all times of the year and pay close attention to the well-being of their young people, she said.

Ms Neho is offering free suicide-prevention workshops for whānau groups, marae and schools in Whangarei.

She said they would cover what signs parents and families needed to watch out for when someone may be thinking about taking their own life and how to help them recover.

Northland's suicide rate doubled last year, with 36 people taking their own lives, many of them Māori.

Six were young Kaitaia people aged between 17 and 25 whose deaths - over just a couple of months last winter - rocked the Far North town.

Social worker Margie Matthews, the manager of Family Works in Whangarei, believes the key to reducing youth suicide is in building resilience in a child well before the teenage years.

Children who were not doing well at school as five or six-year-olds - or had troubled homes - often had feelings of worthlessness that made them especially vulnerable to life's pressures as teenagers.

She said that was where the community needed to step in, with help at school or even pre-school.

"Once they're suicidal teenagers, it can be pretty hard to build them up. The younger we start that the better," Ms Matthews said.

"That could be through programmes, or counsellors in schools, it could be opportunities for kids lacking in self-worth who have issues at home to have someone to talk to, act on what they are saying, so they don't believe it's their fault."

Margie Matthews said Family Works had just launched its first Social Worker in pre-schools service, to identify and help at-risk children and their families.

Northland DHB said there had been six suspected youth suicides in Northland in 2017 but it remains committed to getting that number down to zero.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may 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)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

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

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