National's suicide rate fiasco | The Jackal

18 Jul 2017

National's suicide rate fiasco

We all know that the suicide rate is dependent on people’s quality of life. It’s not just about personal responsibility; it’s about people’s mental health being adversely affected by negative life events that leads to suicide.

In recognition of this fact, the government has undertaken a number of measures to try and reduce their accountability for making people’s lives worse.

One of those measures was to try and front foot the issue with Nikki Kaye saying she wanted a national conversation about suicide. She then resolutely ignored any attempts at communication.

Yet another way National is trying to limit their culpability is to not set any proper suicide reduction rates.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Suicide reduction goal dropped over fear of Govt accountability

Email correspondence released to the Herald under the Official Information Act shows the 20 per cent target "suggestion" was dropped after the Government's principal mental health adviser Dr John Crawshaw ran the idea past Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman in late February.

After meeting the minister, Crawshaw emailed the expert panel on March 3, saying: "Please be aware that we have raised the suggestion of a purpose of 20% reduction in suicide rates over 10 years.

A 20% reduction over 10 years would be achievable if the government was socially conscious. However with the true extent of the atrocious suicide rate in New Zealand being kept secret and the government refusing to provide more support for things like mental health services, it's unlikely we'll see a reduction anytime soon.

"We have been asked how this can avoid becoming an accountability measure for Government, with insufficient levers, rather than a purpose to motivate the all-of-community approach."

The correspondence was released during work on Break The Silence, a Herald special series focusing on youth suicide. New Zealand has the second worst suicide rate among those aged 25 and under in the developed world. Our teen suicide rate - officially those aged 15-19 - is the worst.

The National led government trying to bury their heads in the sand instead of properly targeting a reduction in the suicide rate is pretty bad. So is the South Canterbury District Health Board stopping one of our lead suicide experts, Mike King, from speaking about mental resiliency in schools.

While Jonathan Coleman is more concerned about saving face, nothing political will be done to reduce our world leading suicide rates. In fact National is likely to make things worse by trying to limit their liability. It's therefore clearly time to vote in a government that actually cares.