Image: the founder of the Key to Life Charitable Trust Mike King on a recent trip to the Cook Islands to talk suicide prevention.
Between the 29th of June and the 30th of July EntreHub will be a running a series highlighting people and organisations working in the field of suicide prevention. In Australia more than 2,500 people die as a result of suicide each year while in the United States the number is in excess of 40,000. Here at EntreHub we believe that these stories and these people matter. Please help us spread the word.
When we first reported on the work of former comedian Mike King, it was at a time when suicide rates in New Zealand were stubbornly high at 508 people. In the last few years Mike and his “Cool to Korero” (Korero is the Indigenous New Zealand word for talk) talks have been on the road spreading a message of hope and at last count that has seen him travel to more than 100 towns, communities and cities across New Zealand and speaking with more than 100,000 people. A pretty impressive feat considering Mike and the Key to Life Charitable Trust (KTL) get next to no financial support from the New Zealand Government.
In the last fortnight Mike and his team took the message of suicide prevention on the road to the Cook Islands, a small island group in the vast Pacific Ocean. The Cook’s has faced challenging times when it comes to suicide among the youth population and back in 2012 a national youth forum was held to address the issue. The first stop on the road trip for Mike was to Tereora College where hundreds of kids, members of the community and teachers gathered to hear a message that “everyone faced problems and difficulties in life and it was normal to ask or seek help and advice from others.”
King went onto tell media “What we do is we go to schools and encourage, empower young people to find solutions to their own problems making it feel normal to ask for help from others….” And “reflecting on my own troubles that I went through in life, I share with children in particular the inner critics or the little voice that we all have in our head that usually tell us that we not good enough.”
Image: packed crowds in a Cook Island High School listening to Mike King talk about the positives of life
“And every time we mark something up, that little voice in our mind usually says that we are useless or hopeless, and that is one thing that limits people to do less than they could have done.”
Another central message Mike focuses in on is for parents and the need to ensure that we both listen and spend quality time with our kids:
“The most common issue young people go through today is their relationship with their parents. The relationship with parents is a real struggle and I have come across a lot of young people who agree with this…the most important thing is how we can be a good role model to our children and practice good behavior to them: not telling them what to do, but showing them what and how to do things at home and these little things help develop a much more positive mentality.”
Mike when on to tell media that “the solution to the problem was for parents to understand that their jobs to earn a living would always be there, and they needed to spend more time with their children…what is important is how much time you put aside for your own families, showing your children they matter and that their opinion counts in the family. Show them how much you value them by inspiring them as parents and speaking positive of them.”
Image: kids in the Cook Islands in one of Mike Kings roving visits - talking opening about mental health and suicide prevention
Meanwhile back in New Zealand Radio New Zealand has been reporting on a landmark survey into suicide prevention:
#infographic courtesy of the Global Indigenous Knowledge Exchange Network for Suicide Prevention
Many people who took their own lives did not get the right help or slipped through the cracks of multiple government agencies, the first ever government review of suicide deaths found.
The review - which was undertaken by an advisory committee to the Health Quality & Safety Commission - also looked at how to reduce the record number of suicide deaths in New Zealand.
The Suicide Mortality Review Committe said it would like $700,000 a year to set up a permanent body to analyse all suicide data.
Its feasibility study looked at the 1797 suicides between 2007 and 2011 and examined three groups with very high suicide rates: young Māori, mental health clients and working-aged men.
Committee chairperson Dr Robert Kydd said some of the findings were surprising.
For example, the survey sample showed that at 6.9 percent, the suicide rate among men working in the construction and trade industry was slightly higher than the 6.8 percent rate for working in farming or forestry.
It was not known why that was the case, but it should be investigated, he said.
"It's been something that has been identified in other jurisdictions and it's something that might be useful to try and look at," Dr Kydd said.
Mental Health Foundation programme director Moira Clunie said the high suicide rate amongst construction workers was recognised across the Tasman.
"In Australia there's a programme called Mates In Construction which works within the industry and is integrated within the health and safety systems on construction sites."
This encouraged construction workers to look out for each other, she said.
Another significant finding in the study was that many of the people who committed suicide were known to a number of government agencies.
About 40 percent had come to the attention of the police in the decade before their death. Half had committed an offence in the year before.
Among young Māori, 40 percent had contact with Child Youth and Family, and 12 percent had been in its care at some point in their lives.
The Police, Corrections, and social and health services often had significant involvement with suicide victims at various points in their lives and frontline staff need more training and agencies must work more closely together, said Dr Kydd.
"There is an inter-agency suicide group which is set up to look at things but they've all got quite large workloads and we would hope that a committee like ours, or something similar, could help to pull that alltogether."
Hastings District Counciller Henare O'Keefe was an ambassador for the suicide prevention Yellow Ribbon Trust before it shut down 10 years ago, after government funding dried up.
He called for community action after a coronial inquest found four Flaxmere teen girls, who took their own lives between 2013 and 2014, all came from families characterised by domestic violence and abuse.
Agencies were failing to work together because they mistrusted one another and there was a lack of political willingness to share resources, he said.
Mortality review committees had already been established to review surgical, mother and baby, and child and young person deaths and had all helped to reduce preventable deaths.
Dr Kydd said a permanent suicide review committee was needed to find out more about why people took their own lives and that information could be used to prevent future deaths.
The Minister of Health said the feasibility study and all its recommendations were under consideration.
Where to get help (in New Zealand)
Lifeline - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
Healthline - 0800 611 116
Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional reporting: Radio New Zealand / Cook Islands media
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