New Director for Suicide Prevention Office puts people at heart of mahi

The Ministry of Health announced today that Matthew Tukaki (Ngāi Te Rangi) has been appointed as the new Director of the Suicide Prevention Office.

Acting Deputy Director-General of Mental Health and Addiction, Dr Arran Culver, says that Matthew was particularly suited to heading up the Suicide Prevention Office as he was involved in establishing a similar model in Australia.

‘We know that suicide can be prevented, but we need continued strong leadership and advocacy in this area and Matthew’s skill and extensive experience will be of real benefit. While we have seen a small decrease in the number of suicides in the last two consecutive years of reporting, there is much more to do. Our goal is achieving a future where there is no suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand, and I know this is an aspiration close to Matthew’s heart,’ Dr Culver says.

Matthew Tukaki says he is excited about joining the Suicide Prevention Office and building on the mahi that has been underway since the Office was set up in 2019 .

‘Suicide prevention has been my passion for many years and here in Aotearoa I would like to believe we have an opportunity to really change the dial as we emerge from COVID-19. We know that many of the struggles of whānau and New Zealanders have been amplified as a result of the pandemic, but we also knew leading into it we had a lot of work to do,’ Mr Tukaki says.

Mr Tukaki starts in the role on 1 July and is looking forward to engaging with as many people and organisations as possible to make that meaningful difference from day one.

‘It won’t just take one or some of us – the mahi around suicide prevention in Aotearoa will take all of us – irrespective of our colour or creed, our postcodes or where we call home,’ says Mr Tukaki.

On behalf of the Ministry of Health, Dr Culver would also like to acknowledge the outstanding work of Dr Sarah Hetrick, who stepped in and acted in the role while the search for a permanent appointment was underway.

Background information

About Matthew Tukaki (Ngāi Te Rangi)

Matthew is the former Chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia and was the inaugural Chair of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention. Tukaki also developed the resource ‘How to have a Korero’ and has been active in Indigenous suicide prevention for more than a decade. Tukaki was also involved in the establishment of the National Suicide Prevention Research fund and the national evaluation framework for suicide prevention programs.

About the Suicide Prevention Office

The Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) was established in November 2019 to provide kaitiakitanga (leadership and stewardship) for suicide prevention efforts. A key focus of the Office is the ongoing implementation of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2019–2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand: He Tapu te Oranga and Budget 2019 suicide prevention and postvention initiatives of $40m over four years.

The SPO provides a central place for oversight and leadership of suicide prevention and postvention work across the country, supporting Māori leadership and working closely with communities, population groups experiencing high numbers or rates of suicide, and suicide prevention groups, organisations and agencies to achieve a future where there is no suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Key achievements of the Suicide Prevention Office

The SPO continues to make good progress implementing He Tapu te Oranga.

  • Seven Suicide Prevention Community Funds targeted at Māori, Pacific, and Youth have been established since 2019
  • Between February 2021 and March 2022, almost 4,500 people across Aotearoa received government funded LifeKeepers training and gained valuable suicide prevention skills.
  • Additionally, a range of other organisations, such as other government agencies, universities, and private businesses, have paid to have LifeKeepers training delivered to their staff.
  • Launched in September 2021, the Suicide Bereaved Response Service Aoake te Rā continues to grow, with 120 providers signed up and able to deliver services within all DHB areas.
  • Reviewing the coronial process for investigating suicide has begun. The result of the review will be recommendations about what changes could be made to improve the process. This is a cross-government collaborative process with representatives of bereaved families and whānau as well as Te Ao Māori and tikanga oversight. The review is expected to be completed by September 2022.
  • In response to a high-profile death and the ongoing lockdowns in Auckland in 2021, two social media campaigns (#chatsafe) reached over 400,000 young people and provided information about how to talk safely about suicide on social media.
  • The family and whānau suicide prevention information service continues to improve information available to whānau. Four new resources are now available to ensure better support for those experiencing suicidal distress and those bereaved by suicide. These include guidance for whānau, kaumātua, funeral directors, celebrants, and faith leaders; guidance for bereaved whānau and those supporting them; and guidance for how to talk to young people who may be distressed and how to make a support plan.

The Suicide Prevention Office in the Health Reforms

The Suicide Prevention Office remains within the Ministry of Health from 1 July, with a focus on strategy, policy, regulation and monitoring the outcomes achieved by the system as a whole.

Planning and commissioning functions for suicide prevention and postvention initiatives will sit within Health New Zealand.

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