Teen suicide pact fear

Wairarapa teenagers are feared to be involved in a mass-suicide pact.

After the sudden deaths of four teenagers, authorities and community groups are clamping down on frenzied social media messages which make claims of a pact among some teenagers to end their lives, and identify – often falsely – teenagers who have killed themselves and ways they have done it.

Four teenagers have died tragically since June – three from Masterton and one from Pahiatua. A girl, 17, died in Masterton on Thursday morning, following the deaths of a Masterton girl, 14, last week and a boy, 17, in June.

One was an ex-pupil of Makoura College and another a pupil at Chanel College.

The district health board and police have brought together Special Education, Youth Connect, Victim Support, Child Youth and Family and school counsellors who have met to identify and support people who may be vulnerable.

Senior Sergeant Warwick Burr was aware of rumours of a suicide pact and said police were ready to take urgent action if they believed someone was about to commit suicide.

"We are discouraging young people from jumping on the bandwagon so to speak. The texting and the Facebooking is fuelling the frenzy particularly with people saying things that they have no intention of doing."

Wairarapa DHB suicide prevention co-ordinator Barry Taylor said there had been a lot of anxiety in recent weeks.

"This has had a major impact on the community and many young people have been upset. Many rumours are going around and there has been some kind of glorification of the deaths by some people."

Mr Taylor said one person had been admitted to hospital at the weekend but because of the age difference he did not believe this to be linked with the deaths.

The deaths, along with continuing rumours and threats of more to come, were "winding the young kids up and scaring them", local iwi Rangitane chief executive Jason Kerehi said.

"Our community is in crisis and we are trying hard to be on hand for our kids. We need immediate action."

A hui facilitated by Rangitane on Thursday attracted more than 70 people, many from affected families. The mood was reportedly one of desperation to act and concern about lack of support for those teenagers who were going through the crisis.

Those needing help can contact the DHB's child and adolescent mental health unit during the day and the Mental Health Line at night. But parents want a dedicated 24-hour local 0800 line for this crisis. Local iwi and parents are in talks to set up the phone line this week.

Campaigns to counter the alleged suicide pact have been set up – one called Shout and one Pact for Life.

Shout spokeswoman Mereana Lopa said the campaign – instigated by Makoura College pupils – would begin next week to spread positive messages through wristbands, T-shirts and presentations.

"There are a lot of mixed messages and we are worried that if we don't do something, someone else may take their lives. The kids are scared. They are really scared."

Mr Burr said parents needed to be aware of what their kids were up to as far as they could and use local services when needed. A community meeting at Makoura College tonight would clarify danger signs and ways to support children.

SEEKING HELP

People in crisis or concerned about someone who may be in crisis can call these confidential helplines:

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Samaritans 0800 726 666

Depression 0800 111 757

The Dominion Post