Addressing Suicide Policy
The ripple effects from suicide are huge. Sadly, far too many New Zealanders have been affected by the loss of a loved one to suicide. As our suicide rate continues to grow, we recognize the reality that not enough is being done by Government agencies such as Mental Health (both now and in the past) to deal with the escalating tragedies.
If the Nation of New Zealand is serious about reducing suicide rates, we need to give the message that all New Zealanders are wanted and needed in our society. The Assisted Suicide, or End of Life Choice Bill gives the wrong message as it says that suicide is an option if you are tired of living.
The loss of resilience that we once had as a people, generations of broken families, substance abuse and addictions, mental health disorders and depression, are just some of the factors that contribute to our escalating suicide rate.
Although culture will take time to shift and reshape, there are interventions that can be implemented quickly to address the urgent specific needs of New Zealand’s acute mental health crisis and suicide rates.
New Conservative will focus on:
- Triage – ensuring that the Mental Health Crisis Team does an ‘in person’ assessment within 24 hours after a phone call assessment. We will work to ensure that we have the funding and resources needed and available for ‘in person’ assessments to be carried out nationally.
- Primary care – reviews and updates of education and training for all primary care providers in Mental Health.
- Emergency departments – establishing clear pathways between emergency department and crisis team staff with after-care programmes for suicidal patients who present to ED services. Research shows the highest risk of suicide is within 30 days for those who have contacted ED services or been discharged from a mental health ward. Good quality follow up is essential in suicide prevention.
- Gatekeeper training – providing Gatekeeper training for allied health, public-facing government agencies, educational institutions, workplaces, and communities. Gatekeepers are any people who come into contact with at-risk individuals and can refer those at risk to appropriate assessment and care.
- Hotlines – increasing funding for suicide crisis helplines engaging in mental health support.
- Specialist Mental Health Services – education of mental health providers, adequate resourcing of specialist mental health services, and psychosocial and pharmacotherapy treatments. Most people who make serious suicide attempts or die by suicide have mental illness, and have had recent contact with mental health providers. Regular auditing of mental health services will ensure they are well resourced and use the resources well. We will give more incentives for relationships between private and public mental health providers to maximise use and access to expertise in secondary and primary sectors. We will look at funding care packages that follow the client so they can access and contract the best services, whether public or private.
- Education – addressing the recent ideological changes to our education system that has led to a significant reduction in resilience in our young people. New Conservative will invest in school programmes that teach resilience and equip young people with skills to deal with psychological distress.
- Accountability – will review and ensure that the Health and Disabilities Commission is functioning as intended. New Conservative is comprised of many people who have worked on the frontline in social service areas. These frontline workers have identified that throughout New Zealand there is an ever growing dissatisfaction and little public faith in the current Mental Health system. There must be accountability, for Mental Health staff and all other primary care providers, both individually and collectively as a provider/DHB.
- Outpatient care – ensuring proactive and regular outpatient follow up care, and an intensive wrap-around programme for those who are either post suicide attempt, or identified as at risk of suicide. We will ensure that patients who attempted suicide and were discharged from a medical facility, are dealt with by professionals purposefully, rather than just a routine check-up, and will increase funding for more and respite facilities to ensure sufficient accommodation for those at risk.
- Ministry for Men – addressing that New Zealand’s highest suicide rate is among males. New Conservative will establish a Ministry for Men to focus on the gender most at risk of suicide and male-specific factors that drive that risk.
- Causation – addressing the causes of suicide. New Conservative is committed to resourcing adequate research to identify main drivers. We will invest in data and statistical collection to identify these issues, and fund the issues accordingly.