Image: New Zealand Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman with Prime Minister John Key
After months of trying to seek a meeting with the Minister of Health in New Zealand, Dr Jonathan Coleman, when it comes to suicide prevention is the latest excuse “Unfortunately due to prior travel commitments, the Minister is unable to meet with you.” In fact requests for meetings go right back to March of this year. In between then and now dozens of New Zealanders have taken their lives and many more have made an attempt. Take for example the five young people in Kaitaia since May. IN 2015 more 564 New Zealanders took their lives and the rates have been increasing in the last decade.
Infographic: the hidden toll of suicide in New Zealand
Over that decade the Ministry of Health has presided over a suicide prevention strategy that has failed. In fact, there was never an evaluation framework in place to test what was working and what wasn’t which has led to largely blind investments being made in an uncoordinated and mitigated mess. Several weeks ago this publication went to print with an image showing a suicide prevention workshop evaluation in full swing – it was a piece of butcher paper where you place a sticker next to how you feel the workshop went. The Ministry of Health used smiley or sad faces as the benchmark for success or not. The Government failed to answer any questions related to that image or the calls for leaders in the sector for an inquiry. Instead they wanted to let our readers know about the money they have been spending on mental health and suicide prevention.
Image: the suicide prevention evaluation technique used by the Ministry of Health
But here is the jib of it – are they being reckless with taxpayer money given the investments they have been making over this last decade have no structured evaluation in terms of outcomes? And by the way if outcomes were being achieved where are they? Because as sure as night follows day the rate of suicide is increasing.
The reality is there are some fantastic initiatives underway but many are not fully funded or not funded at all when it comes to reaching full potential. Then there are the army of kiwis out there doing small things every day with little or no support from their own Government. When you see an inquiry being launched into water contamination almost overnight yet calls for an inquiry into suicide in Northland among young people is ignored it begs the question “does the government and the Minister care?” If they did surely they would be acting. Unless they have become arrogant and complacent because of their longevity in Government?
As an alternative to a Government seemingly uninterested in the tragedy of suicide facing the people comes an initiative by a group of concerned kiwis. The Peoples Forum is a place where you can have your say http://www.actionstation.org.nz/reviewthesystem
Image: Mike King and Kyle MacDonald - two of the people behind the campaign to review New Zealand's approach to suicide prevention
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