A five-year plan to reduce the suicide toll will advise the film and television industry on the risks if characters die at their own hands.
Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton launched the five-year Suicide Prevention Action Plan 200812 in Wellington yesterday and said it would save lives.
New Zealand's suicide rate has fallen by 19 per cent in a decade, to 13.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
Mr Anderton said the fall from 199597, when there were 16.3 suicides in every 100,000 people, showed prevention efforts had produced "runs on the board".
But more hard work was required to reduce the toll from the current level of about 500 self-inflicted deaths each year.
The latest figures, released in November, showed there had been a small annual rise between 2004 and 2005, from 488 to 502.
Maori, men and those in deprived communities are most at risk.
In 2006, 5400 people were treated at hospitals after intentionally harming themselves.
Some news media have developed voluntary reporting protocols regarding suicide and the latest programme intends to build on this.
The focus is to be widened to include fictional work including film, television and drama.
Health Ministry officials plan, for example, to hold discussions with drama students, to develop guidelines on the fictional portrayal of suicide or suicidal behaviour.
This month more than 600,000 people aged five and over watched the Shortland Street serial killer storyline end when Joey Henderson (played by Johnny Barker) killed himself by jumping off a building.
During the launch of the five-year action plan, four initiatives were highlighted as examples of effective suicide prevention strategies.
The first was an Education Ministry professional development programme being run with senior staff in 75 schools, which was intended to help teachers build resilience in children so they can face challenges.
Another was the National Depression Initiative. It includes the $6.7 million advertising campaign featuring former All Black John Kirwan, and youth website thelowdown.co.nz, which features musicians and television personalities talking about overcoming depression.
The site has had 43,000 visits in the three months since launching in December.
The launch also featured a programme which is intended to improve the care of people who have made suicide attempts, and another which is intended to reduce suicide risk among children and young people in state care.
The youth suicide rate has fallen 33.5 per cent since its 199597 peak, to 18.1 deaths per 100,000.
"We can make a difference if we are strong enough to create a New Zealand that values lives, and where New Zealanders are supported in the rough seas and strengthened in the calm," Mr Anderton said.
"I believe this action plan will help us towards this vision. And I believe it will save lives."
- The Dominion Post