The Kapiti/Horowhenua cluster of Rotary District 9940 launched a community driven programme for young people at risk. “Lifting the Lid” on youth suicide launched at fabulous Rotary charity lunch and auction today (4 Oct). 'Congratulations to the six Rotary Clubs from Paraparaumu to Foxton. You have truly demonstrated the power of “together we connect” to make a difference in your communities.' Radio NZ covered this event well.  ( DG John Mohi)

Included in this story ( read more), is the address from the Key Note Speaker Dr Chris Bowden.  Michael Fagg also reports that, 'Final figures are still be finalised but we did received a donation from the Nikau Foundation for $5000-00 and raised just over $10,000 from the auction'.

Dr. Chris Bowden, School of Education, Victoria University of Wellington.
In the year to June 2018- June 2019, 685 people died by suicide in NZ. 11 of these were 10-14 years old and 73 were 15-19 years old (and increase from 53 the year before). The majority of these suicides, were Maori youth, young men, and students. Young people aged 15-19 have the 2nd highest rate of suicide (23.14 per 100,000) after the 20-24 year olds.
The causes of suicide are complex, but we know that some of the most common and significant risk factors for youth are: (i) exposure to suicide and suicide bereavement, previous suicidal behaviour, (iii) a history of mental illness, addiction and problematic substance abuse, (iv) childhood trauma, adversity, abuse and maltreatment, (v) bullying and victimisation, (vi) recent trouble with the law or disciplinary action, (vii) recent relationship breakup, (vii) access to means of suicide, and (viii) a lack of coping and problem-solving skills. There are many other factors.
Young people who are struggling with suicidal thinking, feelings or serious mental health issues need a lot of support from friends, family, teachers and health professionals. Supporting suicidal young people requires a team effort and collaborative approach. This work hard, exhausting and ongoing and the issues that need to be addressed are complex. Mental health professionals like counsellors, psychologists, and specialist therapists are a key player in that team.
Young people who are actively suicidal or at risk of suicide need professional support. Counsellors, youth workers and social workers can provide some support but they often need the help pf psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and others with specialist knowledge and expertise. These professionals can: (i) assess their risk and situation, (ii) provide a diagnosis if they have complex psychological, behavioural or other disorders, (iii) develop an evidence-based treatment or support plan, and (iv) monitor and follow-up their progress and adjust their support.
Family and whanau also need professional support so they can better care for and protect youth/rangatahi. They often do not know how to support their child at home – they need advice, and someone to help them advocate for their child’s needs, and assistance to navigate the mental health system. 
Accessing counselling (beyond what is offered at school and in local services), psychological treatment and intensive professional support are key aspects of effective suicide prevention.
Last month, the government launched ‘Every life matters”: He Tapu te Oranga o ia tangata. The NZ suicide prevention strategy and action plan. The strategy makes special mention of: (i) focusing on specific population groups including youth; (ii) working together (whole community approach and coordinated care) and (iii) making sure financial and practical resources are shared and maximised, pathways to support are clear and barriers to support are reduced. In Action Area 6: the strategy talks about “Responding to Suicidal Distress” and the need for suicidal people to a range of support including professional support.
We all know there is a significant shortage of mental health professionals working within the system, there are long wait lists, and young people who have to wait to be assessed. There isnt enough people to shorten the wait time and lists. The suicide prevention strategy recognises the need to build a strong system, with a skilled suicide prevention workforce. Other barriers that prevent young people from accessing timely help include strict and unrealistic criteria. There are limited resources, and so those most in need, at highest risk need to be prioritised. However, risk statuses can change, those at moderate risk can become at high risk. When there are delays, when they have to wait for referrals to be made, appointments to become free, young people can see this as confirmation that no one really cares, there is no help available, and there situation is hopeless.
We need to make sure that young people who are at serious and high risk of suicide get timely access to: (i) compassionate, culturally responsive and trauma informed care; (ii) evidence-based care, not care based on someone’s opinion or lived experience, or what is available, and (iii) mental health professionals who are trained, knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in working with vulnerable youth.
I could tell you many stories about young people I have met from Bluff to Kaitaia who have been struggling with suicidal thoughts, feelings, who have tried to take their lives, or have lost multiple friends and whanau members to suicide. Professional support makes a difference.
One young woman I met, lost her best friend to suicide. She had a good family, but they struggled to know what to do or say to support her. She started drinking, taking drugs, skipping school, running away from home and staying out all night – her behaviour spiralled out of control. She became withdrawn, angry, and hopeless. She didn’t know how to cope with the thoughts and feelings she had, and the grief and anger she had about the death of her friend. She didn’t meet the criteria for depression, she wasn’t self-harming, and she didn’t have severe learning difficulties or disorders. She wouldn’t engage with the school counsellor who was out of her depth and over stretched with other students.
I was brought in to talk to her and try and persuade her to accept some help. I referred her to a local clinical psychologist who was skilled and experienced in working with youth. Within a few weeks of working with her and then a few months of support she was making progress. She had worked out some stuff, had identified some reasons for living and was working towards her goals. This family was lucky – they had someone who could help them find support, and they had the money to pay for a private psychologist. Other young people and their families are not so fortunate and lack the financial resources to access timely support.
This initiative by Rotary and the local collages and Kura will go a long way to making sure that young people/students get the right support, rom the right people at the right time. It will help students whether they are on the edge of the cliff, two steps back from the edge or thinking about climbing to the top of the cliff. It will help them and their families get the help they need when they need it. This initiative is a solution to a real problem. It doesn’t duplicate other services or supports. It is not taking away ‘business’ from other existing services. What this initiative does is meet some of the objectives and actions outlined in the Suicide Prevention Strategy, and it reduces barriers, and increases accessibility of support – it makes sure that young people are not disadvantaged because of financial or other practical issues and lives will not be lost because people cannot afford professional support. There are small windows of opportunity – that open and close – when it comes to suicide al risk and vulnerability. This initiative and fund will ensure young people get access to that window of opportunity - to get support that makes a real and lasting difference.