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'It's not OK to go that way'.

Appalled by New Zealand's "tragically high" youth suicide rate, Waikato District Health Board (DHB) registered nurse Kahui Neho has launched a new campaign to raise community awareness of suicide.

Neho, who has worked in the DHB's inpatient mental health service, the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, for four years, has teamed up with motorbike club the Super Maori Fullas to launch the Riders Against Teenage Suicide (R.A.T.S) Green Ribbon Ride campaign, with the slogan "It's not OK to go that way".

"I got a great response from the club's leader Mahu Rawiri and the other members when I suggested the idea last year," said Neho. "These guys are ordinary people and fathers who understand the issue. It's all about helping people talk about the issue, to know what support services are available and to, hopefully, save the lives of our young people."

Neho says youth suicide rates are particularly high in Northland, where she comes from, and in the Tainui/Waikato area. "I am really afraid of losing these young people--it's like losing a generation.

"Our people have problems discussing this tragedy and there is no clear answer as to why young people take their own lives. Our rangatahi are our future, and they need to know there are people out there to help them when they are at their most vulnerable. If this campaign can save even one life, then it's worth it."

Neho said New Zealanders were very good at hiding things and not talking about the tough subjects. "This has to change and I am really grateful the Super Maori Fullas have agreed to front this campaign."

The R.A.T.S campaign's first event was in Whangarei in January, the second in Hopuhopu, Ngaruawahia, in March, and the third in Kawerau earlier this month. Thirty-five riders attended the event in Hopuhopu, which began with whakatau, with six local service providers present. They included Waikato DHB's Maori Health service Te Puna Oranga, Hauora Waikato, Te Ahurei a Rangatahi Trust, the suicide prevention groups Casper and South Waikato SYS.

Neho has worked in mental health since she graduated in 2006. She first worked in community mental health in Whangarei before taking a job at the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre in 2008. She loves the challenge of working with people with mental health problems. "Every day is different and I can relate to our clients as the person I am. There is no need to change who I am."

Neho says Waikato DHB has been "nothing but supportive" of her involvement in the R.A.T.S campaign. "Te Puna Oranga, my managers, and my colleagues have guided me when preparing for the events. The help of a big organisation like the DHB means a lot to a little Northland-born person like me."

Neho says her involvement in the campaign may not win her many friends to start with, because of people's fear of confronting the issue. "It might take a few years to make a difference but I am prepared for that and so are the Super Maori Fullas," she said. "I would love to see an event held every month, but we will see what emerges during our planning after the event in Kawerau."

For more information about R.A.T.S, email Neho on supermaorifullas@hotmail.co.nz.

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Title Annotation:Waikato District Health Board's suicide awareness campaign
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Apr 1, 2013
Words:554
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