22 Dec 2017

Six suspected youth suicides in Tamaki in four months

5:36 pm on 22 December 2017

There have been at least six suspected youth suicides in the Auckland suburb of Tamaki in the past four months, prompting the community to rally together to provide more support for their young people.

A teenage Māori boy looking unhappy

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Tamaki youth workers say it is a tragic and difficult time for many, especially in the leadup to Christmas.

Ann Makea is the coordinator of Te Āmiorangi, a programme for youth run by the local Ruapotaka marae.

She said there has been a spike of suspected suicides of young people in the past few months.

"We've been to a lot of funerals this year and it's a sad state of affairs to see the dysfunction of some of the families here," said Ms Makea.

"A lot of it has to do with the stats that are over our heads ... poverty, alcohol and drug abuse and violence."

She said if there were problems within whānau, young people often did not know who to turn to.

Ms Makea said it was important for family members to come together and make sure they talk about wellbeing - not to just sweep it under the rug.

But she said the main reason behind the recent deaths was broken relationships.

"Young people who have entered into relationship that they're not really ready for," said Ms Makea.

"They [don't] really understand what the repercussions are in terms of break ups and so on."

Tara Moala is the founder of Rākau Tautoko, a community development group.

She organised a hui in October in a response to the spate of suspected suicides in Tamaki and about 90 people attended.

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board chairperson Josephine Bartley was at the meeting and she said it was heartening to see the community banding together.

"There's been a social media group set up that provides information to people who want to know how to prevent [suicide], if they can see what some of the signs and what can be done as a community," she said.

"There was a work plan put together."

Ms Bartley said the recent spate of suspected suicides recently was the highest number she has personally seen.

Brothers in Arms, a youth mentoring organisation, is also increasing their efforts in the Tamaki area in the new year.

Its general manager, Dave Robertson, said he hoped more people would volunteer to be mentors for young people there.

"We were asked by some of the people if we could focus more attention in that community at this time after what has been a tragic few months for a lot of people," he said.

"Suicide is a very complex issue and there's no easy fix and it's going to take a whole range of people to be involved."

The youth workers are hopeful that they will see a decrease next year.

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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