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Getting our 2017-2027 national suicide strategy right

Suicide is a complex phenomenon therefore approaches to suicide prevention need to be able to address this complexity The World Health Organisation has identified suicide prevention as a global imperative. Effective suicide prevention requires a vision, a plan and a set of strategies which can be achieved through a national suicide prevention strategy.

‘’A national strategy indicates a clear commitment of a government to prioritising and dealing with the issue of suicide. It provides leadership and guidance regarding what the key evidence-based suicide prevention activities are and what should be prioritised.  A strategy allows for the transparent identification of stakeholders who are accountable for specific tasks and outlines ways to coordinate them effectively’’ (WHO, 2014 page 56)

NZ is currently in the process of developing the next 10-year national suicide strategy (2017-2027).

CASA has made both an individual submission and a joint submission in combination with the Mental Health Foundation, Changing Minds, Lifeline, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao Trust, Skylight, Northland District Health Board, Adolescent Health Research Group, University of Auckland, Dr Lynne Russell, Dr Theresa Fleming and Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho.  The Ministry of Health are currently in the process of reviewing all the submissions. At this stage, there is no indication of the process or timeframes for finalising the strategy.

Getting it right

The development of a strategy for the next 10 years provides an important opportunity. Suicide is a highly emotive issue and understandably people want to be able to make a difference and reduce the impact of suicide in their communities. It is important that the strategy is accessible and guides individuals and communities to know how they can make a difference. Our feedback (individual and combined) on the draft strategy has focused on the following:

  1. A strategy that is ambitious, inspiring and accessible.

Ambitious – having a clear measurable target with recommendation of a 20% reduction over the 10-year period of the strategy implementation

Inspiring - that can harness the high level of public interest in suicide prevention

Accessible – presented on a way enables individuals and communities to understand what they can do to make a difference

  1. A strategy that is connected up and clearly accountable that outlines a collaborative and co-ordinated approach that addresses leadership at all levels and outlines specific commitments and responsibilities.
  2. A strategy that is evidence based and continuously learning which built around what works and in particular integrating NZ based research such as findings from the trial Suicide Mortality Review Committee, the Waka Hourua research programme, the NZ Suicide Prevention Research Fund, NZ Health Survey, Youth2000 series, Christchurch Health & Development Study, and Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study as well as significant work undertaken by local suicide prevention researchers over the last three decades including Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho, Dr Annette Beautrais, Dr Sunny Collings, Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath and others. Mechanisms for evaluation of all funded programmes is required to ensure a continuous learning approach
  3. A strategy that is action oriented which is based on distillation of our current understanding of what works in suicide prevention to inform coherent actions that focus on factors particularly those which will have the greatest influence and have a high likelihood of creating change.

What we can do?

CASA is committed to continue to make a difference and to work collaboratively to reduce the enormous impact of suicide in NZ.  Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide and it is imperative that we work together to do so.  It is important that individuals, agencies and communities are aware that there is a new strategy under development and the importance of this in shaping suicide prevention in NZ over the next 10 years.  We encourage everyone to monitor the progress of the draft strategy and to engage in any opportunity to have input to ensure that the 2017-2027 strategy is effective in reducing suicide in our country.

- Maree Inder, CASA CEO

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