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Working together to prevent suicide

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Southern DHB and WellSouth, primary health network, are supporting the message of hope that marks World Suicide Prevention Day 2018, this Monday 10 September.

‘Working together to prevent suicide’ is the theme this year and everyone is being encouraged to take a minute to reach out to others in the community – a family member, friend, colleague or even a stranger – to help keep them safe. Equally, people feeling vulnerable, should know they can reach out to those they can trust to help keep themselves safe.

 It’s an important message of empathy and action and optimism, says Paul Martin, suicide prevention coordinator for the Southern district, even in light of recent Coroner’s Office data indicating there were 668 suspected suicides in New Zealand last year, the highest number to date since 2010.

“There are improvements to be made, but good work is being done by dedicated health professionals, support workers, counsellors and others - and people’s lives are being saved because they have sought and received help, ” he says. “It is important to remember that we all can reach out. And doing so could change someone’s life.”

Dr Evan Mason, Southern DHB’s Acting Medical Director, Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability Directorate, says: “Throughout our community, the DHB, other government organisations and the many agencies in Otago and Southland, mental health is a priority for us all. Preventing suicide is complex and we all have an important part to play in preventing suicide.  We encourage people to speak with someone and seek help if they are feeling at risk.”

While there are no simple solutions to suicide prevention, there are simple steps we all can take, starting with talking and listening:

Practical Ways to take a minute and help friends, family and even strangers:


  • People who have lived through a suicide attempt often say they desperately wanted someone to ask if they were okay.
  • Connection and conversation are the keys to helping those who are vulnerable to suicide. We know that sharing, bringing hope, caring and compassion help us all feel good about our world.
  • It is okay to ask someone if they are suicidal. If you suspect that they are, if your gut feeling tells you ‘something does not feel right’, or you know that they are suicidal, asking them something like “what you have just talked about sounds pretty hard to cope with right now; sometimes people in those kind of situations start thinking about suicide - are you thinking about killing yourself?’ This will not trigger something. If they say ‘yes’, you can guide them to people who can support them and keep them safe.


  • Suicidal people are often looking for someone to ask them how they are, and they do really want to talk to someone about what they are feeling. Once you have asked them the question, it is important to listen to them, to hear them out in a caring and comforting environment and help them to access the support they need.
  • Stigma around suicide plays a large role in why people do not reach out for help. If you are talking to someone about suicide, it is vital that you listen without judgment.
  • People having thoughts of suicide cannot see another way out of their current situation, but there is always another, better option than suicide. Let them talk about how they are feeling in a way that they feel understood and not judged. Understand that it is their life’s journey to date that has made them conclude suicide is an option. They simply need more options, skills and people they can trust to get them through this bad patch.
  • Know where to go for help in your local community:  emergency services, counselling services, your GP. Who else in the whānau or local community can be a trusted contact for this person?
  • As a family member or friend, you can use a Safety Plan working in trust alongside a vulnerable person to help guide them to a safer place and give them the tools to get there, along with their access to professional support.

Where to get help:

  • 1737 free text/phone number service ( will connect you to a trained counsellor who can help if you have feelings of anxiety, helplessness or just need to talk to someone.
  • Emergency Psychiatric Services (EPS) 0800 443 366 (1 for Southland and 2 for Otago). It may be useful to have a support person or advocate available to assist.
  • Suicide Crisis Help Line - 0508 TAUTOKO (0508 828 865) is a free, nationwide service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is operated by trained and experienced telephone counsellors who have undergone advanced suicide prevention training.
  • Talk with your GP or a trusted health professional and work on improving coping strategies and keeping yourself well. They can then assess or prescribe as necessary and/or make a referral to:
  • In an emergency, dial 111.