Challenging New Zealand's 'taboo' suicide culture video

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Talking about suicide may be 'taboo' for some, but not for Anji Butler and Alicia Moxon, who say we need to talk about it..

Suicide can be a hard and sad issue to talk about, but a group of Palmerston North people are challenging its taboo nature. 

Highbury Whanau Centre manager Anjali Butler said conversations around suicide needed to improve.

In the past year, Butler and her team have been working closely with schools in Manawatu, offering support and services for pupils feeling stressed, low, or having self-harming and suicidal thoughts. 

Registered psychologist Alicia Moxon with a pamphlet on suicide risk factors and what to do and where to get help.
Warwick Smith

Registered psychologist Alicia Moxon with a pamphlet on suicide risk factors and what to do and where to get help.

During a visit to a local school, Butler realised there was a gap around the prevention and education of suicide for young people. 

Living with 'the suicide disease' that no one can see  [video]
Brother shares Tink's story for suicide awareness and prevention  [video]
Mike King talks about suicide prevention at Massey

So the Highbury Whanau Centre has created a suicide prevention pamphlet, which will be handed out to health professionals, universities and schools in Palmerston North. 

The pamphlets aim to "start conversation", offering advice and highlighting risk factors for people and families to look for. They also list local services for people to access easily. 

Butler said New Zealand had some of the worst youth suicide statistics in the world.

In 2012, a study of World Health Organization databases found New Zealand had the highest rate of suicide among adolescent males (aged 10 to 24) out of 27 developed countries, and third highest for adolescent females. 

"What we are doing in this country is not working."

Ad Feedback

She said something needed to change.

Community psychologist Alicia Moxon​, who works at the centre, said there were often issues of high pressure, stress and anxiety for young people within schools and tertiary institutions.

They had even offered their support and services in some primary schools for children with trauma, she said.

For young people feeling stressed about work and assignments, often that stress was "normal" and it was OK to feel that way, she said.

But when these pressures led to low moods, bad thoughts, self-harm and suicidal thoughts - that was a problem that needed to be addressed. 

She said the silent culture around suicide needed to change. 

"We see a lot of teenagers who say it's not OK for them to talk about their feelings. They wont open up and work through it.

"[But] being able to speak about their concerns and communicate - that's so important." 

Moxon said there were people in the community who just "don't know what to do" when it comes to recognising the signs, dealing with people at risk or going to available services. 

The idea behind the pamphlet stemmed from a Rotorua iwi. It had a simple A, E, I, O, U structure, that was quick, easy to read and offered education and prevention.  

Moxon said 1000 pamphlets were printed and would be handed out in the community as part of Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from October 10 to 16. 

The theme this year is "connect with nature for good mental health and wellbeing".



Acute care team (ACT) 0800 653 357. A 24/7 helpline from Palmerston North to Waikanae. 

Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at

Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback