New Southern suicide prevention strategy focuses on collaboration and community

25 May 2020

New Southern suicide prevention strategy focuses on collaboration and community

Creating an inclusive, open and coordinated approach to suicide prevention is at the heart of the newly released Southern District Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan, 2020-2023.

“Suicide, suicidal thoughts, self-harm: these are complex health and social issues – and as such they need a multi-faceted community approach in addressing them” says Bonnie Scarth, WellSouth’s suicide prevention/postvention coordinator for the Southern district and lead author of the strategy /action plan.

“A broad array of groups and individuals have a role to play in helping make positive changes and to reduce harm in our communities. It is not only our health services that can make those changes, though they are important. What we also need to think about is the impact we can have by working together.”

The strategy and action plan has been developed with input from stakeholders, including iwi, and postvention groups from across the district. The work draws on current research around suicide and intentional self-injury as well as best practice regarding postvention support.

Potentially high-risk groups recommended as the focus of suicide prevention support and campaigns are young Māori men, Pacific peoples, New Zealand/European men - especially older men, those who live in smaller, rural communities and people involved in the justice system.

“This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be support for other groups, including students, for example, but certainly these are the people that we’ve been told - and the research indicates – need our help most urgently,” Bonnie says.

The strategy highlights the connection between reducing suicide rates and the importance of improving the overall health of the whole population, as well as the potential for various sectors and many communities and groups to be involved and to make a contribution.

Grassroots initiatives and interventions might include supporting families through parenting courses or helping coaches and teachers to talk openly (and listen actively) to young people about suicide. Employers could also be supported to help their workers and facilitate peer support initiatives in the workplace.

Emphasising the significant contribution of frontline workers and volunteers who have worked in suicide prevention across the district over the years - the strategy will guide health and social services in the Southern district - Bonnie notes that it is time for more of us to lend a hand.

“No one group or agency or individual can have responsibility for suicide prevention and postvention support. It is a responsibility we all share and by working together, we can make a difference,” Bonnie says. “There is a lot of negative news and understandable concern out there but I do hope that people recognise that there is good reason for optimism.”

Leoma Tawaroa of Kia Piki te Ora Māori Suicide Prevention, said the new strategy is a significant step in the right direction: “The protection of whakapapa and the preservation of life is the source, the reason and the motivation for Kia Piki te Ora – Māori Suicide Prevention. The importance of a strong sense of place, belonging and positive cultural identity are crucial protective factors of suicide for iwi Māori. From the mountains to the sea we’re all connected this suicide prevention strategy looks to strengthen our relationships and collaboration opportunities to bring to life the actions of this significant southern wide suicide prevention plan.”

Southern District Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan, key objectives: Key objectives of the Supporting families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities to prevent suicide and self-harm, and promote wellbeing.

- Supporting families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities after a suicide. - Improving services and support for people at high risk of suicide and self-harm.

- Strengthening the infrastructure for suicide and self-harm prevention Proposals meet these objectives of the suicide prevention strategy.

- Engage and focus on high-risk groups identified by Southern suicide and self-harm events, including Māori, youth, older New Zealand/European men, tertiary education students, corrections clients, and, rural and remote communities.

- Enhance resources available for supporting those bereaved by suicide.

- Encourage and facilitate best practice suicide and self-harm risk management in all services working with people with mental health distress across the district.

- Develop a district-wide suicide prevention advisory group.

- Develop a small district-wide data surveillance group. - Facilitate the development of effective trauma-informed services in the Southern district. - Develop full coverage in the Southern district for community oversight of postvention including the development of a Māori postvention group

ENDS