Sinead Latimer’s petition to get counselling services in to primary and intermediate schools has gained more than 760 signatures. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
Gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is one of the highest in the world – but a 13-year-old Kuranui College pupil hopes to change that by petitioning the government to provide counselling services for students in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools.

In New Zealand, there are around 35 deaths from suicide each year per 100,000 people aged 10 to 24

Sinead Latimer was spurred on to do something after a 15-year-old friend took her own life last year.

“It made me think about the pain that a loved one feels,” she said.

She knows the struggles that many young people feel, having been bullied at school and suffering from depression for three years.

But she said she feels luckier than most, being able to talk to her parents about it.

“What about other kids who need the help in primary schools and have no one to talk to? It might be about their parents.

“There’s nothing for them and that’s why there are so many young suicides.”

In November the Times-Age reported on Wairarapa children as young as 11 years old self-harming while having to wait up to 12 months for professional help from the under-resourced Child Adolescent Mental
Health Service.

Latimer said since moving to Kuranui College she’d been able to access counselling services at the school.

“I love the school counsellor. It just releases me of all the worries and insecurities I have.

“I know it would help so many people.”

That’s why she wants to introduce counselling services in primary and intermediate schools across the country.

Talking about her experiences had encouraged other people to come forward and feel more comfortable to share their own experiences.

“They felt more open to talk about it. They felt that there are people out there who understand.”

She said social media was a contributing factor and many people were dismissive of young people talking about depression.

“I don’t think they realise this is happening to our youth.”

Last year the Government announced plans for a $10.5 million mental health pilot providing free counselling for 18 to 25-year-olds.

It’s not enough, though, Latimer says.

At the teen suicide awareness March outside Parliament earlier this month, Latimer was approached by independent MP Jamie-Lee Ross who encouraged her to start the petition.

It has gained more than 760 signatures so far and won’t close until June 14.

A spokesperson for Supporting Families Wairarapa is urging people to use the resource room at its Queen St building which provides information on all the agencies which can help with mental health and social issues.

Supporting Families can be contacted on 06 377 3081.

More information about the petition can be found on the Parliament New Zealand website.

Where to get help

These 24/7 free phones are operated by trained counsellors who can help you talk through problems and identify ways of coping.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 [Available 24/7]

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 [0508 Tautoko] [Available 24/7]

Youthline: 0800 376 633 Need To Talk? Free Call Or Text 1737 [Available 24/7]

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 [Available 24/7]

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 [1pm to 11pm]

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 [Available 24/7]

Samaritans: 0800 726 666