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Symposium explores new approaches to Māori suicide prevention

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Thursday 12 December 2013 2:19pm

New approaches to Māori and indigenous suicide prevention will be examined at a symposium on 10 February as part of the University of Otago Wellington Public Health Summer School.

The inaugural symposium will examine Māori/indigenous-specific approaches to suicide prevention, highlighting successful suicide prevention case studies in local and international contexts.

Dr-Keri-Lawson-Te-AhoDr Keri Lawson-Te Aho

Māori Public Health Lecturer Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho says the impetus for the symposium is the inability of existing interventions to stem the high rates of suicide among Māori.

“Māori suicide in Aotearoa is a massive public health problem, as it is among indigenous populations throughout the world. There are many causes, but Māori are particularly vulnerable where poverty is high and whānau are under stress.

“We need to immediately address this issue to prevent further harm to Māori communities.”

Topics covered at the symposium will include the roles of whānau, hapū and iwi in suicide prevention, integrating cultural and clinical interventions, community action and development, activism and self-determination, and rangatahi development. This includes the relationship with education, such as the role of Māori education, cultural development and suicide prevention.

The problem of suicide among Māori is a serious issue that needs to be addressed urgently in order to prevent further unnecessary deaths, Keri says.

“A few of us have been committed to this work for over 20 years and yet the question of what comes next is still a difficult one for us. The symposium will facilitate timely discussion and focus for the way forward.”

Advice from the symposium will be forwarded to the Minister and officials responsible for the implementation of the New Zealand suicide prevention plan of action and Minister for Whānau Ora Hon.Tūria Tariana, the Iwi Chairs Forum and Māori and Indigenous suicide prevention networks.

“Our aim will be to maintain the momentum from the symposium,” Dr Lawson-Te Aho says.

“I would like to see a national Māori and indigenous suicide prevention monitoring group established as a result of the symposium to continue to monitor New Zealand’s progress in addressing suicide prevention in our communities, and to ensure New Zealand is connected with international Indigenous suicide prevention efforts globally.”

Hon. Tariana Turia will open the symposium, followed by keynote speakers Associate Professor Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban QSO and Moana Jackson. International indigenous speakers who are leaders in this field in the United States and Canada include Dr Eduardo Duran, Normand D’Aragon and Associate Professor Jacque Gray.

The initiative also has the support of Sir Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

“Suicide in our whānau is an issue that iwi leaders are concerned about. It would be great to see iwi leaders becoming more involved as they have a key role in the development of solutions to the many issues that confront our people, especially our rangatahi,” Dr Lawson-Te Aho says.

“I am personally very grateful that Sir Mark has expressed his support of this vitally important kaupapa. As Ngāi Tāhu are Treaty partners with Otago University, it is particularly important that they stand beside us for this inaugural event.”

For further information, contact:

Keri Lawson-Te Aho
University of Otago, Wellington

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