Voice against suicide

17:00, Jul 22 2013
Youth Suicide WHL
HARD HITTING: Matanui, performed by Mariska Schoeman, left, Vinnie Bennett, Manawarangi Stokes and writer Bryan Divers – deals with issues like teen pregnancy and family secrets.

A spike in suspected Northland youth suicides is behind a three-pronged approach to help improve community well-being.

The Northland District Health Board is spearheading the programme called Promoting Whanau and Youth Resilience in Te Tai Tokerau.

Project leader Tania Papali'i says the initiative is all about helping young people cope with the problems they face.

"Youth suicide, particularly for young Maori, spiked in 2012. The Northland District Health Board has been working with many partners to reduce this and build whanau and community youth resilience," she says.

The first part of the programme is a straight-talking play Matanui by Playworks Productions.

Writer and producer Bryan Divers was inspired to write the script by a parent who urged him to do something about youth suicide.


The play is named after the mountain near where Mr Divers lives in Matapouri. Matanui means lookout and foresight.

The production covers some hard-hitting topics including alcohol, teen pregnancy, suicide and sexual abuse but Mr Divers says it does have a happy ending.

It will be performed in Northland schools from next Monday and complemented by workshops to help students talk about the themes. Support will also be on hand during the performance.

Ms Papali'i says the key point is to help young people connect with services and show them where to turn to.

"It's really integral that young people know how to get help," Ms Papali'i says.

The second part of the project is the Travellers Programme, a small group module to help young people deal with change and difficult life challenges, targeted at year 9 students during their first year of high school.

The health board is funding 70 high school staff to attend two-day training in the programme by Skylight.

The third part of the project is professional development training, to help family and community members identify and respond appropriately to risk factors. The three different training programmes range from suicide prevention foundations for any adult, to advanced suicide risk management for healthcare professionals.

Northland youth suicide prevention and support group The Raid Movement supports the plan.

Spokeswoman Hannah Young, 22, says suicide prevention has been missing for a long time.

"It has been an incredibly silent issue and I think we are finding out quite rapidly that talking about it is the way to fix it and the way to take steps to make it better," Ms Young says.

Members of the Raid Movement will be in schools during the Matanui performances.

Spokesman Ihaka Korewha, 22, says youth often feel adults can't understand their problems so it is good to have younger people around for support.

The Raid Movement encourages youth to talk to their peers if they are having trouble because friends can often be more approachable than adults.

Whangarei Leader