Laila Harre Speech notes – launch of Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand (SPINZ) Community Information Kit
Specialist Education Services
Aitken St, Wellington
Thank you for inviting me here today to launch such a valuable resource, one that empowers communities to take practical
steps towards youth suicide prevention.
I know that there are already many dedicated people working tirelessly on this issue at a community level. Many of you
here today have been only too willing to share your expertise with me, a new minister with no real history in youth
suicide prevention, and for that I thank you.
I am now aware of the diversity of ideas and approaches being advocated as possible solutions to this horrific problem.
The community resource kit I am launching today is an attempt to bring these ideas and approaches together in a way that
best suits our different neighbourhoods and regions.
Youth suicide is an issue that threatens all New Zealand communities, yet the possible solutions will vary from place to
place. For example, the needs and experiences of an isolated rural community will be quite different from those living
in the central city.
The common thread here is that communities, wherever they are based, need to collectively decide the best way for their
people to approach youth suicide prevention. This resource will walk them through that process.
The community information kit offers clear guidelines on how to draw together all the different groups working to
prevent youth suicide, both directly and indirectly, through a community action plan. Underpinning the community action
plan is the concept of healthy youth development, and it promotes this concept by engaging the local decision-makers
that can actively support and foster youth resiliency.
I'm talking about mayors, church leaders, local police, members and managers of youth community health and mental health
organisations, sports and cultural groups, local iwi and youth leaders.
This buy-in is crucial, as supporting and building the resiliency of our young people will be a vital strand of any
successful youth suicide prevention strategy.
The resiliency of a young person determines their ability to deal with social pressures. Too often suicide is seen as
the permanent solution to a temporary problem that a similar, yet more resilient, young person is able to deal with.
We have to go further than just isolating the risks young people face and trying to reduce those. Taking risks is a
natural part of growing up and defining who you are – we as a community cannot stop this. What we can do is make sure
our young people are safe, well informed and aware of the options available to them should they feel stressed or at
At the very beginning of the kit there is an emphasis of working with young people, not just when they are in crisis but
always. Connecting young people to their communities through empowered participation is at the heart of a community
approach to suicide prevention.
Building resiliency will also be a focus of the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa, which will be a key focus of the
Ministry of Youth Affairs over the next two years. This process will also look closely at the issue of youth suicide
prevention, specifically how it fits into a broader programme that promotes healthy youth development.
For this reason, I will be watching with interest the progress made by the six Northland communities that will put the
SPINZ community information kit into practice. The Health Funding Authority has contributed $50,000 for the kit to be
piloted in Dargaville, Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Whangarei, Opononi and Mangonui.
The pilot programme will involve a series of community workshops or hui to be held over 10 months on local marae, and
led by trained members of the SPINZ project team.
Participants will be given step by step guidance on how to implement a community action plan and promote youth
wellbeing, with each phase evaluated at three month intervals. The SPINZ team will give local community representatives
the ongoing support they need to put their action plan into practice.
Of course the community information kit will be there for all communities to use, but I'm certain that this hands-on
training will maximise the long-term benefits of a community approach to youth suicide prevention. And in dealing with a
problem like this, long term benefits are all we can hope for. There is no panacea, no quick-fix solution, and even more
alarming, things may get worse before they get better.
I would like to see every electorate in the country given the opportunity to work alongside trained professionals to
develop and implement a youth suicide prevention strategy. SPINZ estimate that this would cost about $180,000. The
Northland pilot is a good starting point. I truly hope it is just a starting point and not another excellent pilot that
is falls through the funding gaps because it's not strictly a health initiative and not strictly a social service
initiative. The problems underlying youth suicide, and therefore the solutions, will never be neatly pigeon holed.
I also hope that SPINZ is around to carry on the excellent work that it has been doing to help the government implement
the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. At this stage it won't be, as its funding runs out in the middle of next
In the coming years, this government will have some big decisions to make on the way it approaches youth suicide.
Recently my colleague Jim Anderton responded to 3 youth suicide inquests which had shown a lack of suitable services for
young people known to be in crisis, by calling for action, not reports. This kit is a meaningful action which will be
reinforced byt the community activities promoting it. Nevertheless it is heartening to have support for even more action
from the senior ranks of government. I know that will have been music to your ears.
Before I officially launch the community kit, I would like to put youth suicide into context.
The majority of young people have the support they need to find healthy ways of working through their problems. New
Zealand is full of young people who are desperate to be more involved in the world around them, and their resilience and
motivation should inspire us all. But even one 16-year-old who sees no option other than their own death is one young
person too many. It's up to us, the government and the community, to make sure young people realise that they do have
options, and that these options are accessible and adequately resourced.
Further comment: Claire Hall, press sec, (04) 471-9902 or 025 270 9001
For a copy of the Youth Suicide Prevention Community Information Kit: Leora Hirsh, SPINZ, (09) 638-7364