Easy to say, harder to do

Stop your kids from committing suicide…

A visiting global expert on teenage health is giving New Zealand a glowing report card, with one exception – our high youth suicide rate.

UN advisor Professor Robert Blum says fewer Kiwi teens are drink driving and smoking, but parents and teachers need to make them feel better connected.

Coasting through summer is a teenage rite of passage, but adolescence has its ups and downs.

Prof Blum is impressed with New Zealand’s approach, but says our high youth suicide rate is not good enough. Last year alone, 46 teenagers aged between 15 and 19 took their own lives.

He has simple advice for parents – eating one family meal a day together is key to staying connected.

“Talk to your kids, talk to them, talk to them, talk to them and when you don’t believe they are listening keep talking, because they.” 

He also believes every child should be known by at least one adult in every school.

Prof Blum has also stressed to policymakers here the need for taxing fatty foods and sugary drinks – his research offshore has found bad nutrition, alcohol and stress turn off crucial regulators in our body, making teens and adults more vulnerable to disease.

New Zealand is making real progress in teen health. In the past decade, 56 percent fewer teens have tried smoking, 40 percent less say they’ve tried marijuana, there’s been a 55 percent decrease in teens drink driving, and 34 percent fewer getting into a car with a drunk behind the wheel.

Mostly on the improve then, but still too many kids taking their lives.

It’s a tricky time of their lives, with hormones surging through and becoming incommunicative.  Personally I don’t see how you can reduce suicide rates.  With rare exceptions, each and every one is unexpected.  There are often loved, well looked after.  And still…

Keep the communication lines open.  Beyond that, I’ve got no idea.  Do you?

– 3 News


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Carl

    This is a very hard one. Does it need to be a bit more out in the open when it happens as it seems to be hushed up at the moment. I don’t mean that we need to know all the details of how it happened but letting people know what struggles the person might have been going through (if known) so other parents can talk to their kids about this to see if they are experiencing anything similar. At the moment it seems taboo to even mention the word suicide when it has occurred.

  • Deane Jessep

    This expert seems to think/imply that teen suicide is primarily perpetrated by loners with minimal connections to their friends and family. My personal experience is exactly the opposite of that. I had two friends and a family member attempt suicide when I was younger and last year a mentor I had not seen for a while succeeded (not a teen). Every time the person involved was a well connected likable person who felt emotionally out of control or spurned.

    In three of the four situations I have experienced I would go so far as to say the person was pivotal to many people, well liked and ultimate tried to take their own life because of an emotional disconnect magnified by the “talking” of other people. Usually this was pressure, humiliation (accidental) or a love interest problem.

    So sadly my view is that this “policy wonk” does not have a clue what he is talking about. For a bit of backup on what I am saying have a look at this article I wrote when my friend, the point is sort of that certain types of “Talking” can be very harmful unchecked. http://linkd.in/17QuRrb

  • Steely Man

    Ive just finished reading John Kirwans book, Stand by Me about helping teens through tough times. A one line summary could be: Stay connected. Then you notice the changes which are out of character. I guess this is the purpose of “talking to” your kids (which so often becomes “talking at”).
    Connection in my view can be the quiet times doing nothing together (some people call this fishing) or can be the more communicative times. Just as long as you know enough about your teen to notice if they change. If they become less engaged -or if they suddenly need to be unusually social. I think that is why people have difficulty pinpointing the universal warning signs. There are none but I hope I will recognise the individual warnings signs if they appear.
    Lets hope

  • kiwiinamerica

    Having done some volunteer work with adolescent drug/alcohol abuse when I was living in NZ, the issue of teen suicide was huge on our radar screen. In my experience, a good percentage of teen suicides involved improperly diagnosed and treated depression oft times exacerbated by chemical abuse. NZ’s higher than average rate has a number of contributing factors: the stiff upper lip English boys not talking culture (slowly changing), our heavy drinking culture (also slowly changing) and the biggest IMO was the lack of adolescent specific mental health treatment options/facilities and fewer teen wrap around services and a Privacy Act paranoia that made interagency discussion about at-risk teens more difficult. Things in this area are also slowly improving. My 2c worth.

  • JC


    A couple of things stand out in these stats..

    The teen suicide rate is only the fifth largest age group taking their lives, Maori males can almost double the rate in some years, rates fluctuate.. high in the late 90s, 2004-2007, down in 2008/09 and rising 2010/11 and theres been a general reduction since the late 90s.


    This study shows Maori teen rates are more than double non Maori and the deaths tend to be in deprived areas.

    If you’ve been relatively close to Maori most of your life and lived in towns with higher than average Maori populations there are no real surprises about Maori teen or other age group rates at all. That wonderful aroha seems to really come out as the kid is led out of the dock down to the cells with mum and relations calling out “Love you son/bro/cuz but I don’t think there’s much of it about before he gets into trouble.. I think we are looking at a decayed and dying culture of solo parenthood, few role models in the deprived areas and no stabilising religion or social groups for too many kids.

    As for Europeans.. I have little insight but agree it can hit in even great family circumstances.


  • Betty Swallocks

    The ‘visiting expert’ thing really makes my skin crawl, it always has done since I came to NZ. What is it in our collective makeup as a nation that makes the MSM fawn over these troughers who seem to pop up on a nauseatingly regular basis to tell us how NZ should be run? Their opinions and so-called expertise have been formed thousands of miles away, often in societies that function very differently from ours.

    ” Prof Blum has also stressed to policymakers here the need for taxing fatty foods and sugary drinks – his research offshore has found bad nutrition, alcohol and stress turn off crucial regulators in our body, making teens and adults more vulnerable to disease.” So his visit here obviously wasn’t funded by Restaurant Brands.

    Professor Blum also “… believes every child should be known by at least one adult in every school.” Well, having read on this blog over the past few years of the number of adults in schools who have “known” some of the children they were allegedly responsible for, I’m not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing.

  • Stand

    Such people are a burden on society. We are all better off without them, IMO.
    Good riddance to bad rubbish.
    Stop glorifying idiocy, report these acts for what they are.


  • whiplash2

    In the past couple of months I stopped talking to people including my family (although not to the same extent) because of emotional problems which made me feel like I wasn’t worth the time. I’ve slowly come back to a happier state and it wasn’t because people weren’t around and talking, I was still laughing at jokes and mucking around at school with friends. Then reason why I got better was because my good friend decided to speak up and ask why I had stopped socialising. One of the things she did was tell me to keep messaging her. Sometimes just having someone to have a good talk to about anything is the best thing for you and I think that’s where a lot of the mistakes happen. People keep falling back on the idea that moving on, forgetting and ignoring all the feelings that make you depressed will make it go away, and maybe that works for someone who is just sad but with depression things haunt you. With every breath you take you find yourself remembering all the things that make you unhappy and the world feels overcrowded and complicated.