Draft suicide prevention strategy released for consultation

Mon 15 May 2017

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced that the draft suicide prevention strategy is available for consultation. In addition to accepting ...

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced that the draft suicide prevention strategy is available for consultation.

In addition to accepting written submissions, the Ministry of Health is holding public consultation meetings around the country. Meetings focused on specific population groups are also being organised.

The deadline to submit feedback is 12 June 2017.

Information about the public meetings and how to submit feedback is available on the Ministry of Health website. For previous strategies, information from the development consultations and research about suicide in New Zealand see the Information release for the draft suicide prevention strategy.

The Strategy and family violence

This document updates the previous New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006–2016. The Ministry of Health held 23 workshops around the country with families, providers, clinicians, academics, and other government agencies to help develop the draft strategy.

Minister Coleman said “It also builds on the previous strategy with a proposed stronger focus on opportunities across Government to better manage integrated responses and share information.”

The strategy includes exposure to violence, trauma or abuse as a risk factor for suicide and notes that the rate of suicide is higher for people who are or have been in care of Child, Youth and Family, the Department of Corrections or Police. The Appendix lists policies and activities related to preventing suicidal behaviour. Under the reference to the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence Work Programme, the Strategy notes:

"Reduced violence and offending will contribute to preventing suicidal behaviour, while
preventing suicidal behaviour in turn can involve initiatives that can make family violence and sexual violence less likely."

Links between family violence and suicide


Research in other countries has shown that family violence is linked to suicide. Michael MacIsaac's research in Victoria, Australia found between 2009 and 2012 almost half of all women and a third of all men who died by suicide had been exposed to violence; more than 60% of the men had been the perpetrator of family violence.

The New South Wales Domestic Violence Death Review Team, Australia stated in their Annual Report 2013-2015 that 29 of the 30 homicide perpetrators who committed suicide after killing their intimate partner were male. 22% of all male intimate partner homicide perpetrators committed suicide, and 3% of all female intimate partner homicide perpetrators committed suicide. They also reported that 25% of all homicide perpetrators who killed a child relative/kin in a domestic violence context committed suicide. The team does not specifically examine family violence related suicides however their 2013-2015 annual report stated they would work on developing a methodology for reviewing domestic violence related suicides in 2016.

The legislation which established the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board specifically identifies that a domestic and family violence death can also include the death of a person "by suicide or suspected suicide if the person was or had been in a relevant relationship with another person that involved domestic and family violence."

A report from the US-based Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review in 2006 examined the relationship between suicide and domestic violence. They reported that a high number of women who had experienced domestic violence and high number of men who had perpetrated domestic violence committed suicide. However, they also noted that services often do not adequately acknowledge this relationship, miss opportunities to screen for risk of suicide or domestic violence, do not address the increased risk that suicidal behaviour in perpetrators indicates for victims or recognise how abusers might use suicidal threats as a tactic of control. The 2006 report provides specific recommendations.

Aotearoa New Zealand

In New Zealand, the Ngā Rāhui Hau Kura: Suicide Mortality Review Committee Feasibility Study 2014–15 and the 2016 Coroner's report of the inquest into the suicides of four 15 year old Flaxmere girls noted the relationship between exposure to family violence and youth suicide.

The Youth'07 violence report found that young people who had experienced or witnessed family violence were about twice as likely to have significant depressive symptoms, and about three times as likely to have attempted suicide (page 7).

The New Zealand Violence Against Women study found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence are more likely to contemplate suicide (Exploring risk factors for suicidal ideation in a population-based sample of New Zealand women who have experienced intimate partner violence by Gulliver and Fanslow, 2013).

However, data is not sufficiently recorded to identify how many youth or adult suicides are linked to family violence in New Zealand. The trial Suicide Mortality Review Committee (SuMRC) recommended that an ongoing SuMRC be established to "... exhaustively analyse existing data, in conjunction with other agencies, in ways that are not currently possible." The SuMRC recommended collaborating with other death reviews including the Family Violence Death Review Committee to identify priority populations and strategies for intervention.

For more information on family violence and suicide

See the previous NZFVC story Inquest into youth suicides finds exposure to family violence and the Library Quick Topic Search Suicide/self-harm.

Related news

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has joined the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases with the support of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. HRC has announced the first initiative to partner with the Ministry of Health to provide up to $2 million focused on researching strategies to improve Māori and Pacific youth mental health.

Waka Hourua: National Māori and Pasifika suicide prevention programme released a new resource booklet aimed at supporting whānau and regions to prevent suicide among Māori. Te Pātūtū Oranga - Successful initiatives to suicide prevention amongst Tāne Māori, by Dr Jordan Waiti, highlights Māori interventions and initiatives that help reduce the risk of male Māori suicide.

The CDC has published a new resource: Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices.

Selected media

Waitangi Tribunal to hear claim Maori suicide linked to ongoing effects of colonisation, NZ Herald, 09.12.2017

Suicide consultation called box ticking, Waatea News, 06.06.2017

Beck Eleven: Urgent action needed on mental health shortfalls, Opinion, Stuff, 03.06.2017

Suicide prevention group calls for royal inquiry into mental health services, Te Karere TVNZ, 23.05.2017

Urban Māori hold own hui on govt strategy for suicide prevention, Radio NZ, 22.05.2017

Mike King is a NZ Hero, Waatea News, 19.05.2017

Suicide prevention plan a 'meaningless statement', Radio NZ, 16.05.2017

Ministry of Health defends suicide prevention plan, Radio NZ, 16.05.2017

Mental health boss didn't try to stop Mike King resigning, says his input was valued, One News, 16.05.2017

Director of Mental Health defends suicide prevention strategy, Radio NZ, 16.05.2017

PM 'not surprised' as King steps away, Otado Daily Times, 16.05.2017

Mike King Resigns Suicide Advisory Role, Press Release: Mike King, Scoop, 15.05.2017

Suicide prevention plan 'deeply flawed' - Mike King, Radio NZ, 15.05.2017

Prime Minister not surprised by Mike King's resignation, Radio NZ, 15.05.2017

Mike King says Prime Minister being 'unkind', Radio NZ, 15.05.2017

Comedian Mike King quits: Govt's suicide plan 'deeply flawed', NZ Herald, 15.05.2017

Mental health advocates support Mike King's stance on suicide prevention, Stuff, 15.05.2017

'Actually implement things that are going to help' - Mike King steps down from suicide prevention panel over 'deeply flawed' government plan, One News, 15.05.2017

Suicide prevention strategy 'the responsibility of all of us', Stuff, 15.05.2017

Rachel Smalley: King's exit from suicide prevention panel a huge loss, Newstalk ZB, 15.05.2017

Suicide prevention planning by two DHBs, RadioNZ, 15.05.2017

Mike King quits Government suicide panel, Newshub, 15.05.2017

Boost for Māori mental health research, Waatea News, 24.04.2017

People's Mental Health Report Released, Press Release: People's Mental Health Review, Scoop, 19.04.2017

Government calling for views on how to lower suicide rate, Stuff, 12.04.2017

New resources to fight Māori male suicide, Māori Television, 14.03.2017

Image: Pixabay