11 Sep 2019

Concerns over lack of Māori suicide prevention strategy

11:08 am on 11 September 2019

The government has come under fire for its lack of Māori suicide prevention strategy and its barriers to Māori mental health service providers getting funded.

No caption

Mike King joined the health minister and prime minister at the announcement. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The strategy, which has been long-awaited, was launched yesterday on World Suicide Prevention Day.

It was revealed last month that the Māori suicide rate had jumped by five deaths, from 23 to 28, per 100,000.

Under the government's suicide prevention strategy, there will be more mental health support services for high risk groups like, Māori, Pacific, takatāpui, or gender-diverse people.

Health Minister David Clark said that everyone should have access to the services they need, but when asked where those services will be and how prevalent, he said that design work was ongoing and dependent on the proposals they received from community providers.

Dr Clark said the report into mental health and addiction was very clear in saying services need to be co-designed by people with life experience and working with Māori.

Community mental health service providers that wished to apply, would have the opportunity to do so from the 16 September.

He was flanked by Mike King, the former comedian, now mental health advocate, who was there to show his support for the government's suicide prevention strategy.

He previously quit the suicide prevention strategy committee of the last government over the lack of an "actual percentage target", but said that now he is "okay" about there being no targets because they create a myth that they (the government) are doing a good job.

He also went on to contradict the government's policy, and said that he does not support separate services for Māori.

"Stop targeted funding - it's a New Zealand problem first and foremost."

But Matthew Tukaki from the Māori Council, who has a background in suicide prevention, said that the government has failed to implement the recommendations from the Whakamanawa report from the mental health and addiction inquiry.

"It looked like our own national strategy, designed by Māori, run by Māori, implemented and executed by Māori - we also called for a specific focus on the difference in the workforce, it's always seen through a traditional lens, and a Māori workforce, that is very community-based and whānau orientated, and so they've missed the mark and they've missed the opportunity."

He is also concerned that some community service providers will miss out on the funding, which raises the question of whether people will have access to kaupapa Māori mental health services.

"I'm sick and tired of hearing this from David Clark around existing service providers and people can pick and choose, well actually there are dozens of organisations who are Māori who are out there everyday but they don't get a look in at the front end of the process, because procurement policies within the Ministry of Health prohibit us."

However, there was some support for the strategy.

Maria Baker, from the Te Rau Ora, a national suicide prevention programme aimed at Māori and Pacific youths, says it is great to see tangata whenua featured so prominently in the strategy, with lots of te reo and mentions of Māori throughout.

And Michael Naera, a Mental Health Foundation spokesperson, said while it is still unclear what the strategy will produce, aspects of it such as mentions of the treaty and the Waitangi Health claim - Wai 2572 - were positive.

"They've got the treaty relationship response in there which is great - it's never been highlighted as such in any other suicide prevention strategy that has come forward, other than the first indigenous strategy composed by Dr Keri Lawson-Aho but they brought it to the forefront which I am really pleased about."

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 or text HELP to 4357

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) or text 4202

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 (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm 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.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs