By Eruera Rerekura – | @erurerekura

A suicide prevention group is calling for a royal inquiry into the country’s mental health services.

A 1700 signature petition supporting the bid was presented to Parliament on Wednesday.

Recent figures published in the New Zealand Medical Journal show that suicide rates among the Māori population is 1.6 times higher than that of non-Māori. The percentage among Māori teenagers between 15-24 is twice that of non-Māori of the same age, and the suicide rate of all wāhine Māori is five times higher than the non-Māori.

That’s why Denise Kent said she’s part of the Life Matters Suicide Prevention group.

“I got involved with the trust because my whānau and me, we've been affected by whānau and also friends of my children. I have four boys and the male statistics are pretty horrifying; my children are also Māori.”

Both Ms Kent and Corinda Taylor were invited to the Health select committee to put across their case to politicians.

“We're asking for a royal inquiry. We want to know - where's the money going? Because it's not about throwing more money at the same situation and then hoping you're going to get change. If you throw money and you don't change anything, then you're just going to end up with the same result - and we actually want to aim for zero suicide,” Ms Kent said.

Ms Taylor, however, was critical about the Ministry of Health.

“The current suicide prevention plan that the Ministry of Health has put out has not been implemented, it hasn't been reviewed or audited, and, yet, they're working on the next plan. The draft plan is out - it uses language that is not practical.”

And there are plenty of people behind their cause.

“[The] seventeen hundred signatures we got is seventeen hundred stories of people and they wouldn't have signed the petition if they didn't think that there needed to be some changes,” Ms Kent said.

Labour leader Andrew Little was quick to put his party’s support behind them.

“As a matter of priority we will set up an inquiry that is looking at the system as it is now, where the gaps are, and to start to work up a plan to fix it,” Mr Little said.

Labour is also promising to establish new mental health services across the country if it becomes the government after the general election.