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PM announces creation of Suicide Prevention Office

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has unveiled a new plan to reduce New Zealand's disturbing suicide rate, including a Suicide Prevention Office.

The Government has announced a Suicide Prevention Office will be established as part of a wider prevention strategy and action plan it released today, called Every Life Matters.

The Office will be created to "strengthen national leadership around suicide prevention."

Ardern said it will provide focus for the range of on the ground initiatives contained in the plan. 

 “There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but the range of actions we are taking will mean better support people in distress.

“As well as rolling out new frontline mental health services in places like GP clinics we have already started to tackle this problem with a range of initiatives underway to reduce the number of suicides."

“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."

Suicide deaths reached their highest level this since records began 12 years ago, with 685 people dying.

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Mike King from the Key to Life mental health and suicide awareness organisation was present at the announcement and said he believed in the action plan.

There are no targets in the plan which he was fine with. 

"Targets create this myth that we're doing a great job. Let me put it this way, if you say [a target of 20 percent], there's 700 people in a burning building - go and save 20 percent and tell me that you're happy with that.  The target should always be zero."

"If we're not saving them all, we're failing and need to do better."

The plan includes support for 15,000 people who turn up at hospital emergency departments experiencing a mental health crisis or at risk of suicide, more post-discharge support, amplifying the voices of those with lived experienced, supporting tailored Māori and Pacific suicide prevention initiatives, expanding information and resources to family of those experience suicidal distress, and funding free counselling for 2,500 people (per year) bereaved by suicide, whom research shows can be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts themselves.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson welcomed the plan. 

“Most New Zealanders are aware of the devastation suicide is causing in our communities. But it is preventable, and this new strategy gives us the roadmap and tools we need to prevent it. Not only this, it will help to ensure New Zealanders have lives worth living – it does not seek simply to keep people alive but to build an Aotearoa where everyone can enjoy good mental health and wellbeing.”

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