RainbowYOUTH Welcomes Government Suicide Prevention Plan

PRESS RELEASE: 11 September 2019

RainbowYOUTH says the Government’s Suicide Prevention Plan signals an important shift in the Government’s thinking around suicide prevention, but raises concerns about where the decision-making will sit, and how the mental health workforce will be equipped to put these changes into action. 

The Government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy and Prevention plan (‘Every Life Matters’) released today signals a shift in how they are thinking of leading our society to address our shockingly high suicide rate. RainbowYOUTH is encouraged to see the inclusion of the rainbow communities in this strategy. We see some great opportunities for how the strategy will interact with the rainbow communities and address the issues we face in this area:

A key value that is named as underpinning the strategy is ‘wai ora’ or ‘healthy environments’ - Healthy environments for Rainbow communities means a sense of belonging. This brings into scope the resourcing of work that helps progress societal attitudes and makes our environments free of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersex discrimination. We know these are some of the key contributing factors for the poor mental health and high suicide rates in the rainbow communities.

The establishment of a Suicide Prevention Office - this brings suicide prevention work out of being just a mental health issue and will enable broader, holistic work to be done around other contributing factors of suicide faced by the rainbow communities (such as discrimination, economic disparity, low standards of or access to healthcare, unresponsive education system, etc) which are in the domains of other Government departments. The Suicide Prevention Office has the potential to enable collaboration, as well as more dynamic and multifaceted approaches to reducing and preventing suicide.

Having the rainbow communities at the table - Every Life Matters touches on the need for the lived-experiences and expertise of the rainbow communities to help develop the programs and resources.  This will need to be sustained and reciprocal relationship. Real decision-making ability needs to be placed in the hands of the communities who are providing the support and services. This will be where the real change will occur. The strategy signals that the Government is committed to this, and we look forward to working alongside them. 

Equipping the workforce - of particular concern to the rainbow communities is the capability and responsiveness of the mental health workforce to our people. A recent study conducted by Gloria Fraser from Victoria University of Wellington found that over 20% of rainbow people had had negative experiences with other health professionals in the past. The strategy acknowledges the need to develop the workforce, but it is essential that the diverse needs of marginalised communities are prioritised in this development. 

Fraser and RainbowYOUTH, along with several community partners have recently released a practical guide providing tools and tips about how to support the rainbow community - aimed at mental health professionals. RainbowYOUTH is committed to using our expertise to educate and upskill professionals who work with rainbow young people. We cannot do it alone however, and we are heartened to see a response from our Government that acknowledges this.