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Cross-party mental health report – Expert Reaction

A group of MPs from across the political spectrum have released their vision for zero suicide in Aotearoa.

The cross-party Mental Health and Addiction Wellbeing Group was launched in August last year, with the intention of putting politics aside to address the issue.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the report.

Dianne Lummis, Programme Leader for Master of Psychotherapy – Child and Adolescent, Auckland University of Technology, comments:

“This report sets admirable goals with regard to lowering the suicide rate in Aotearoa New Zealand with its recognition that any significant interventions need to be multi-factorial, broad-based interventions that are responsive to the whole needs of the individual at risk and their whānau.

“Along with the need to support at-risk youth as identified in this document, it is imperative that younger children, who may be at risk of self-harm and suicidal behaviour, are identified as early as possible and offered interventions that will positively impact on their wellbeing.

“Interventions need to be focused on the individual child as well as the whānau. Interventions which focus on reducing anxiety, building secure attachments with parents and wider whānau, increasing emotional resilience, and reducing the impact of trauma and neglect for all children and adolescents are likely to have multiple benefits in the future.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Dr Dougal Sutherland, Clinical Psychologist, Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Wellbeing, comments:

“It’s encouraging to see cross-party support for this Zero Suicide Aotearoa report. Mental health is often the last cab-off-the-rank in health discussions, but this report is a sign that society is beginning to recognise the importance of attending to mental wellbeing as a priority.

“The report makes it clear that there is no single answer to the question of how to reduce our country’s suicide rates. What is clear is that significant funding across multiple sectors of our society is needed if we are to achieve the goals set out by Zero Suicide Aotearoa.

“The release of this report now is timely as it puts the issue back on the political agenda as we move towards an election that might otherwise be dominated by COVID-19. Only time will tell as to whether cross-party collaboration on this issue continues after the next government is formed.”

No conflict of interest declared.