New Director of the Suicide Prevention Office

New Director of Office of Suicide Prevention 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 Office of Suicide Prevention.

Acting deputy chief executive for mental health and addictions Dr Arran Culver said Matthew was uniquely suited to lead the suicide prevention office as he helped set up a similar model in Australia .

“We know that suicide can be prevented, but we need strong and continued leadership and advocacy in this area, and Matthew’s skills and vast experience will be of real benefit. Although we have seen a slight decrease in the number of suicides over the last two consecutive reporting years, there is still a long way to go. Our goal is to achieve a future where there is no suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand, and I know that is an aspiration close to Matthew’s heart,” says Dr Culver.

Matthew Tukaki says he is excited to join the Office of Suicide Prevention and build on the ongoing mahi since the Office was established in 2019.

“Suicide prevention has been my passion for many years and here at Aotearoa, I would like to believe that we have an opportunity to really change the dial as we come out of 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 that we had a lot of work to do,” says Mr Tukaki.

Mr. Tukaki takes office on July 1 and looks forward to engaging with as many people and organizations as possible to make this meaningful difference from day one.

“It won’t take just one or some of us – the mahi around suicide prevention in Aotearoa will take all of us – regardless of our color or creed, zip codes or where we live” , says Mr. Tukaki.

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

About Matthew Tukaki (Ngai Te Rangi)

Matthew is the past chair of Suicide Prevention Australia and was the first chair of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention. Tukaki also developed the How to Get a Korero resource and has been active in Aboriginal suicide prevention for over a decade. Tukaki was also involved in the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund and the National Suicide Prevention Program Evaluation Framework.

About the Office of Suicide Prevention

The Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) was established in November 2019 to provide kaitiakitanga (leadership and stewardship) of suicide prevention efforts. One of the Bureau’s main objectives is the continued implementation of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2019-2024 for Aotearoa New Zealand: He Tapu te Oranga and the Budget 2019 suicide prevention and postvention initiatives $40 million over four years.

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

Key Accomplishments of the Office for Suicide Prevention

The OPS continues to make good progress in the implementation of He Tapu te Oranga.

• Seven Maori, Pacific and Youth Community Suicide Prevention Funds have been established since 2019

• Between February 2021 and March 2022, nearly 4,500 people across Aotearoa received government-funded LifeKeepers training and learned valuable suicide prevention skills.

• In addition, a range of other organizations, such as other government agencies, universities and private companies, have paid for LifeKeepers training to be provided to their staff.

• Launched in September 2021, the Suicide Bereaved Response Service Aoake te Rā continues to grow, with 120 providers registered and able to provide services in all DHB areas.

• The review of the coroner’s process for investigating suicides has begun. The outcome of the review will be recommendations on changes that could be made to improve the process. It is an intergovernmental 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 ongoing lockdowns in Auckland in 2021, two social media campaigns (#chatsafe) reached over 400,000 young people and provided information on how to talk about suicide safely on social networks.

• The Suicide Prevention Information Service for Families and Whānau continues to improve the information available to Whānau. Four new resources are now available to provide better support for people in suicidal distress and people bereaved by suicide. These include advice for whānau, kaumātua, undertakers, celebrants and religious leaders; counseling for bereaved whānau and those who support them; and advice on how to talk to young people who may be in distress and how to develop a support plan.

The Office of Suicide Prevention in Health Reforms

The Office of Suicide Prevention remains within the Department of Health from July 1, with a focus on strategy, policy, regulation and performance monitoring for the system as a whole.

The planning and implementation functions for suicide prevention and postvention initiatives will be the responsibility of Health New Zealand.

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