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Princess approves partnership for suicide prevention in New Zealand and Tonga

Le Va has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Tongan Princess Her Royal Highness Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho so that more work can be done to prevent suicide in Tongan communities in both countries.

Le Va leads New Zealand’s first national Pasifika suicide prevention programme called FLO: Pasifika for Life, on behalf of the Ministry of Health. FLO was launched in 2014 with a mandate to lead and drive Pacific suicide prevention from within Pacific communities.

Le Va chief executive Dr Monique Faleafa said Princess Angelika is the patron of National Suicide Prevention (NSP) Tonga. This new agreement between the two organisations endorses Le Va to work more closely with Tongan communities and churches in New Zealand and share suicide prevention initiatives across countries.

The MoA was co-signed last week at the Tongan High Commission in Canberra in the presence of Reverend Filifai’esea Lilo, chairperson of NSP Tonga and secretary for the Tongan National Forum of Church Leaders.

Dr Faleafa said as a result of the MoA, one of the first pieces of work will be supporting NSP to analyse data on suicide in Tongan communities and developing a suicide prevention programme that works for Tongan communities.

“We don’t have a lot of research about Pacific people and suicide – and we need more to do more to prevent suicide. What we do know is that suicide is an ethnically disproportionate issue. Pasifika peoples are three times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population, and our most recent information tells us that Pacific and Maori youth are the groups we need to focus efforts on to prevent suicide.”

She said in Pacific communities there is also a ripple effect across countries when there is a death by suicide or a suicide attempt – and this has been experienced in the last couple of years with a spate of suicides in the Tongan community in Auckland.

“That’s why a Pasifika suicide prevention programme in New Zealand should also have a ripple effect to connected countries like Tonga, so that we share effective interventions and programmes,” Dr Faleafa said.

The Princess believes that the signed agreement not only formalises the relationship between suicide prevention initiatives in Tonga and New Zealand but it would also help both agencies to achieve mutually beneficial objectives to educate and lead Tongan communities with the right knowledge and information to preventing suicide.

The Princess is convinced that increased focus is needed to implement suicide preventative programmes on the younger generations with effective contemporary approaches and solutions.

Dr Faleafa said suicide is sometimes considered a tapu subject in Pacific communities, and there are myths that talking about it increases the risk, when in actual fact talking about it in a safe way increases help-seeking behaviour.

“We are very honoured to be given this acknowledgement by Princess Angelika. She has the foresight and understanding to know that in Tongan communities we need to start talking and we need the involvement of young people, like herself, to effectively address suicide and suicide prevention.”

Dr Faleafa believes the agreement is the first of its kind between Pacific organisations working collaboratively on suicide prevention initiatives across countries. She also acknowledged Te Rau Matatini whom Le Va also collaborate with to deliver Waka Hourua, New Zealand’s joint Maori and Pasifika suicide prevention programme.

L – R:  Dr Monique Faleafa, Princess Angelika and Reverend Filifai’esea Lilo.

The agreement has received interest from New Zealand and Pacific media. Follow the links below to read more and and listen to radio interviews.

Radio New Zealand International

NZ group joins with Tongan princess to address suicide (website story)

Sharing Pacific data will aid suicide prevention (website story)

Reducing suicide rates in NZ’s Pacific community – Dateline Pacific. Podcast interview and transcipt,

Matangi Tonga (website)

Tonga-NZ partners for suicide prevention

Nuku’alofa Times – Tonga (website)

Princess signs suicide prevention MOU with Auckland NGO

ABC Pacific Beat – Australia (website)

Tongan royal and a New Zealand NGO join forces on suicide prevention

Pacific Scoop

New Zealand and Tonga work together on new programme to prevent suicide

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