Suicide is not about numbers, but devastated families and communities, says new official

The new head of the Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) says that communities are the first in line to tackle New Zealand's high suicide numbers.

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Carla na Nagara said suicide prevention is complex and that everybody needs to play a part. Source: Breakfast

There were 685 suicides in the year to June 30 2019 - New Zealand's highest number of suicides in a year.

The government announced the formation of the SPO in September, saying it would "coordinate action already underway to reduce New Zealand’s historically high rate of suicide".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at the time that "our rate of suicide is a long-term national tragedy and has been for many years.

"Change will take time but this plan and the actions the Government has already in place are an important start."

Source: TVNZ

Speaking this morning to TVNZ's Breakfast programme, new SPO head Carla na Nagara - a former coroner - said New Zealand's suicide numbers won't drop immediately.

"I know we talk about the numbers a lot, but behind all those numbers are people and families and communities that have been devastated by suicide," Ms na Nagara said.

"These are people's lives.

"It's going to require the effort of everybody - the Office needs to take the lead role, and we will," she said, but "the Ministry of Health and government agencies can only do so much.

"If we want to lower our rate consistently, it's going to require everybody to contribute to the efforts," she said.

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Professor Rob Kydd says it’s important to put strategies in place before suicides can occur. Source: Breakfast

Ms na Nagara said Kiwis should not expect an immediate drop in the record-high suicide rate, because the situation is "complex".

"I want to see our rate drop, but I do have to say it's so complex that I wouldn't expect to see a drop within the next year or two," she said.

There are "lots of opportunities to intervene and get alongside people, and support them into services that can help them," Ms na Nagara said.

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TVNZ’s Marae took a highly emotional walk with Men’s Medicine, as participants confront their pain and demons. Source: Marae

"There are solutions - it's not an inevitability.

"What we should be looking for in our family and our friends and communities could be people who seem off their game.

"For some people it will just be that they need someone to talk to - for others they will need referral to services."