Suicide is an issue of major concern to New Zealand communities. Each year more than 500 people take their lives, more than the number of those who die in road traffic crashes. Each of these deaths affects the lives of many others and many are preventable.
As noted in the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013–2016 (Suicide Prevention Action Plan), "the prevention of suicide is both complex and challenging, and no single initiative or organisation can prevent suicide on its own. A comprehensive and coordinated approach is required across government and non-governmental organisations and in partnership with the community".
The Suicide Prevention Action Plan outlines key actions to implement the framework and direction set by government in The New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006–2016. The Suicide Prevention Action Plan sets out the work to be led by government agencies (i.e., the Health Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission), the Ministries of Health, Youth Development, Social Development, Education, Justice, the Department of Corrections and the New Zealand Police) aimed at contributing to the prevention of suicide and suicidal behaviour in New Zealand.
The Suicide Prevention Action Plan names the Ministry of Health (the Ministry) and the Commission as the lead agencies for the feasibility trial of a suicide mortality review mechanism. The aim is to make better use of the data the government already collects on suicide deaths and suicidal behaviour, improve knowledge of contributing factors and patterns of suicidal behaviour and better identify key intervention points for suicide prevention.
In September 2013, the Ministry contracted the Commission to trial a suicide mortality review mechanism. The feasibility trial will develop and test at least two, possibly three, mortality review methods that can be applied to suicide deaths and consider the types of information that can be obtained from the different methods, and how useful this information could be for prevention. We will also use the information from the feasibility trial to develop a simple costing model so that the value for money of various methods can be considered.
Findings from the specific reviews will be published, including recommendations (developed in consultation with key stakeholders). Following publication, the Commission plans to work actively with agencies to encourage implementation of the recommendations.
At the end of the feasibility trial period (30 June 2015), the Ministry will provide recommendations to Government on whether suicide mortality review should become an ongoing function.