National should take suicide prevention seriously | The Jackal

15 May 2017

National should take suicide prevention seriously

The stats don’t lie. More young people are taking their own lives in New Zealand than ever before. This is a clear indication that the system is failing our most vulnerable…a failure that is counted in many lives unnecessarily lost.

Unfortunately the National led government doesn’t appear to give a damn. People who commit suicide are just another number to them and a political chess piece for the government to try and avoid.

That’s the inference given by this article concerning campaigner Mike King’s experience with working alongside the government. He recently had to quit the New Zealand Suicide Prevention External Advisory Panel, citing numerous problems with National’s self-serving approach.

Today, The NZ Herald reported:

Comedian Mike King quits: Govt's suicide plan 'deeply flawed' 
In a letter to Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman, King resigned from the panel saying he is growing "increasingly concerned" about the Draft Suicide Prevention Plan which was released to the public last month.

"The plan has buried all new ideas in such impenetrable language they are beyond recognition and unlikely to ever see the light of day. It is a strategy that is so broad in its effort to please everyone it will eventually collapse under the weight of public expectation. This will please no one except you and the politicians you serve," King wrote.

"It would be funny if people weren't dying," he added.

Pretty scathing! Here’s a copy of the Draft Suicide Prevention Plan (PDF).

King says the draft plan ignores recommendations from the panel, continues to fund "failed experiments", is an almost word for word repeat of the last strategy and will further isolate vulnerable Kiwis.

He went on to say statements made in the draft plan read like a political broadcast and were "so broad and vanilla they can mean everything and nothing at exactly the same time."

The panel had agreed there was a need for the government to set an actual percentage target to try and reduce suicide by 20 per cent over 10 years, but this target was ignored by officials and removed from the final draft plan.

You can see why National took the target out. They clearly don’t have any intention of implementing policy that might reduce suicide rates and having a firm target would allow a more concise assessment of their failure.

"What happened to that [target]?" King asked. "Have we returned to the defeatist attitude that some degree of suicide is acceptable, inevitable or both?"

Every year around 540 people die by suicide in New Zealand.

You would expect that the government would care about such a worsening statistic. After all each life lost to suicide has a substantial financial cost attached to it…not to mention the cost to families, many of whom never recover from a family member committing suicide.

King's resignation comes amid growing calls for an independent inquiry into the state of New Zealand's mental health sector.

The Herald has sought comment from Jonathan Coleman and the Ministry of Health.

Unfortunately National is ideologically blinded by personal responsibility rhetoric. They’re insulated away from the realities of life in New Zealand and appear to not care because in general it’s not their kids who’re committing suicide.

Clearly the National party is more concerned with avoiding bad publicity than actually doing anything substantial about the high levels of suicide in New Zealand.

Bill English the bean counter obviously doesn’t count the cost of lives lost in his budgeting and it won’t be until the government stops avoiding the issue because it’s too political and actually comprehends the cause and effect of their policies that anything will improve.