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Values could have major role in preventing youth suicides

The walk in the Havelock North Domain aimed to create awareness of hope and help

A message of hope and the importance of kindness, empathy and compassion in preventing youth suicides is being emphasised in the Hawke’s Bay in response to youth suicides there.

Concerned locals took part in a Hope Walk at Havelock North in May.

At a recent Hastings District Council meeting a councillor said kindness, empathy and compassion were among the values needed to help prevent youth suicides.

Cr Henare O’Keefe: “We need to capture the hearts of the young people.”

Cr Henare O’Keefe made the comments during a council committee meeting to discuss an update of a suicide prevention plan written by the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

Suicide prevention plans are a requirement for district health boards. The Hawke’s Bay plan was already under way when four teenage girls in Flaxmere took their own lives about five years ago. Cr O’Keefe’s ward includes Flaxmere.

“All those age-old qualities and values that we all know about . . . it’s time to listen, to talk,” Cr O’Keefe told the council meeting.

He also spoke at the Hope Walk.

In an interview with Daily Encourager, Cr O’Keefe said the traditional Christian way he had been raised was behind his comments that included the importance of love and forgiveness.

You can throw all the resources you like but none of that stuff can be legislated. We need to capture the hearts of the young people.”

He said a change of evangelistic proportions was needed to put the values into practice.

“Just walk the talk, be an example,” he says.

He believes a good home environment, good support from the community, and learning to serve others through voluntary and paid work are also part of the solution.

Voluntary work serving others is something he encourages.

Cr O’Keefe says paid work that suits a person’s character and uses their God-given talents is also uplifting.

“However, many teens don’t know what type of work they want to do after they leave school,” he says.

He says the same values that include honesty, being willing and getting to work on time are important in the workforce. Employers need to give the young people the opportunity to work and the young people need to be willing to do the hard yards.

He says there is both seasonal work and permanent work available in the Hawke’s Bay but, as much of it has safety issues, being drug-free is a basic requirement and many applicants don’t get past base one.

He is pleased that some employers are offering to help applicants become drug-free.

Cr O’Keefe says suicide is no respecter of persons and a number of elderly and rural people have taken their own lives.

Walk of hope

Local Red Point Church held a Hope Walk in the Havelock North Domain on May 19 to create awareness of hope, help and a way out instead of suicide.

Pastor Cliff Cherry says they wanted to do something positive about the high youth suicide rate in the Hawke’s Bay.

It was something that had also affected people in the wider church family.

They gained permission from the Auckland organiser of Hope Walks to hold a local event.

About 80 people turned up. Pastor Cliff says they were from his and other churches, the district health board, other agencies and the general public.

Red Point Church Pastor, Cliff Cherry. was among speakers at the Hope Walk

Pastor Cliff says they hope to hold more walks – probably in the Hastings CBD and Flaxmere.

He believes the most important thing is to start a conversation in the community, city and, even, in homes about the issue of suicide.

I’m a great believer that if we fix things in the home we will fix them in the community”, says Pastor Cliff.

“Suicide awareness is a multi-faceted issue but the walk was something we could do.”

“The issue can seem overwhelming but we have got to start somewhere,” he says.

“As a church we believe Jesus brought a message of hope and we want to do the same.”

Public workshops

Before the walk, the health board ran two public workshops using church facilities as the venue. About 40 people attended the two workshops, which were held with the intention of providing community members the basic skills for having a conversation with someone they were concerned about. The objectives of the workshops were to:

  • Identify risk and protective factors
  • Identify some of the warning signs
  • Communicate effectively with confidence
  • Know where to go for support.

Many of those who attended the workshops took part in the Hope Walk.

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For more information:

Here is a link to help with mental health issues.

Red Point Church website click here


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