Māori, Pacific youth playing 'pivotal role' in suicide prevention

By Leo Horgan

Emerging evidence has demonstrated that responding to suicide among young Māori and Pacific people requires a different approach than for other age groups and Pākehā.  Suicide prevention approaches must include particular cultural, social, historical and community contexts which may influence suicide risk for young Māori and Pacific people.

Waka Hourua is the national Māori and Pacific suicide prevention programme funded by the Ministry of Health.

Te Rau Matatini Chief Executive Maria Baker says, “Young Māori and Pacific people, with their families and communities are playing a critical role in suicide prevention. They are providing natural social supports to vulnerable people, they are reaching out to help, they are engaging in follow up care, fighting stigma and supporting people bereaved by suicide”.

Baker says that young Māori and Pacific people in New Zealand are also identifying a preference for a more youth focused, culturally sound and direct approach to talking about suicide.

"They are asking for programs that connect with them as individuals and as members of larger family units and communities. They are asking for diverse and meaningful approaches to provide them with the skills, resources and strength in ways to understand and respond if someone might be struggling or at risk."

According to Baker, Māori and Pacific tailored methods of engagement and knowledge have been shown to be effective in building the knowledge and confidence among participants. Programmes and initiatives where young people are mentored and trained are operating as natural helpers also appear to have good outcomes.

"What we have found is that there is an increasingly strong voice among young Māori and Pacific who are leading the charge in suicide prevention in New Zealand," says Baker, "They are seeking a role in the design and delivery of suicide prevention programs, and with the right support will shape successful strategies for their peers into the future. On this basis, Māori and Pacific Youth have a very important leadership role in youth based suicide prevention in New Zealand."