Suicide mortality review committee gains ongoing funding

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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Minister Peter Dunne have announced that the Ministry of Health will extend funding for the Suicide Mortality Review Committee (SuMRC).

SuMRC was established under the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013-16, operating on a trial basis under the Health Quality & Safety Commission. It will now receive $750,000 annually, reprioritised from Ministry of Health baseline funding.

Making the announcement, Dr Coleman said:

"Our suicide rate is too high, particularly the rates for youth and specifically Maori and Pacific young people. Although wider interventions and support have been made available, there is always more we can do. The SuMRC committee will provide vital knowledge about factors and patterns of suicide that will help guide new suicide prevention activities and reinforce and strengthen existing activities."

A recent UNICEF report Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries (2017) found New Zealand had the highest rate of adolescent suicide (15-19 year olds) across 37 European Union (EU) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Earlier in 2017, The People's Mental Health Report was released, a "crowdfunded and crowdsourced story-based inquiry into the public mental health system in Aotearoa New Zealand."

Family violence and suicide

The Suicide Mortality Review Committee report Ngā Rāhui Hau Kura: Suicide Mortality Review Committee Feasibility Study 2014–15 (May 2016) identified issues of family violence and sexual abuse in considering suicides by rangatahi Māori (Māori youth) aged 15-24 years.

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: see Exploring risk factors for suicidal ideation in a population-based sample of New Zealand women who have experienced intimate partner violence (Gulliver and Fanslow, 2013).

However, data is not currently sufficiently recorded to identify how many youth or adult suicides are linked to family violence in New Zealand.

The Ngā Rāhui Hau Kura: Suicide Mortality Review Committee Feasibility Study 2014–15 report (2016) recommended that an ongoing SuMRC is established to "... exhaustively analyse existing data, in conjunction with other agencies, in ways that are not currently possible." (page 32)

The SuMRC recommended collaborating with other death reviews including the Family Violence Death Review Committee to identify priority populations and strategies for intervention. The Family Violence Death Review Committee's Terms of Reference exclude suicides.

For more information and research, see these previous NZFVC news stories:


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