Suicide First Aid, important as CPR

Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and nothing says this clearer than the provisional coronial data for 2014/2015. With 569 suicides it’s fair to say that New Zealand has a lot of work to do.

No one knows this better than Jo Denvir, CEO of Lifeline Aotearoa. She is at the coalface, with a team of professionals and volunteers answering calls 24-7 from people in crisis. For many of these callers suicide is something they are thinking about.

With almost 50 years experience in crisis support, Lifeline knows a lot about suicide in New Zealand. After all, they run the country’s only Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 TAUTOKO and deliver the respected, evidence-based, suicideTALK, safeTALK and ASIST suicide prevention courses.

But Ms Denvir acknowledges that like most not-for-profit organisations, Lifeline is in a sector where need often outweighs the capacity to respond.

“There is so much more we can do. If we are serious about making a difference in this country we need to reach saturation point with training and education. We need people, organisations, industries to view ASIST suicide first-aid intervention skills as important as learning CPR,” says Ms Denvir.

She goes on to say “A recent international study proves people at risk of suicide feel significantly less suicidal and more hopeful about living after coming into contact with an ASIST trained person. This model works.”

One might wonder, isn’t crisis the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff? A question Ms Denvir is used to being asked.

“One in seventeen New Zealanders will have thoughts of suicide over the next two weeks. If people hear our message to seek help, talk to a loved one, or call Lifeline, then we are working at the top of the cliff. If people get ASIST trained so they know how to help, then we have increased the people working at the top.”

Ms Denvir is an advocate for open and direct talk about suicide. “If we avoid talk about suicide we avoid connecting with a persons needs. All the research points to open, direct talk about suicide, is key to preventing suicide and increasing safety.”

“People in crisis call Lifeline with a whole range of issues, often they are feeling pretty desperate and alone in their situation. Its this lethal combination of feelings that can lead to thoughts of suicide.”

Using a mix of paid professional staff and skilled volunteers, Lifeline is able to provide 24hr support. Ms Denvir implemented this employment mix when Lifeline merged in 2014 and believes it produces positive caller outcomes.

“There is a lot of evidence that suggests volunteers on a crisis-line are often as good and sometimes better than paid staff because of the empathy-factor.”

With a workforce made up of highly skilled professionals and a dedicated army of many, Lifeline is sure to make a difference for another 50 years.


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More focus needed in rural suicide prevention

Regions across New Zealand are participating in Lifeline Aotearoa’s suicide prevention courses and Lifeline is hoping more people in the rural community will sign on.

“Working in the rural sector is important to us, six of our branches are in rural communities.” Says Jo Denvir, CEO of Lifeline Aotearoa.

“If we can train all rural first-responders and the Rural Support Trust in ASIST Suicide First Aid skills then we can make a real difference.” Ms Denvir says.

In the 6 months from July to December 2014, rural communities have tragically lost 14 farmers as a result of suicide. With the provisional coronial suicide figures sitting at 569 the need to get all communities trained is greater than ever.

“If we get the right type of support into these communities, driven and administered by the community until longer-term professional support can be engaged, then we can prevent suicides.”

Ms Denvir wants to encourage New Zealanders to take up the challenge and get trained. “We need people, organisations, industries to view ASIST suicide first-aid intervention skills as important as learning CPR.”

It would seem international research certainly supports her notion. In a ground breaking study conducted by leading suicide researchers at Columbia and Rochester Universities showed that callers working with ASIST-trained counselors were significantly less depressed and suicidal—and significantly more hopeful about living.


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LE VA News

Supporting our ambassadors with Pasifika suicide intervention training

Earlier this month we were blessed to partner with Lifeline Aotearoa to provide their ASIST training workshop to our Pasifika suicide prevention ambassadors and others.

Workshop facilitators Caroline and Kayte delivered a challenging, thought provoking, imaginative and well-evidenced approach to educating participants on suicide prevention. In addition to our Le Va staff, we were also fortunate to have many of our Pasifika suicide prevention ambassadors attend from across the country.

The two-day Pacific-focused workshop covered four broad learning objectives.

Connecting with your attitudes – considering and sharing your own attitudes towards suicide as an entry into discussion about how these attitudes may affect a caregiver role with a person at risk. Understanding the concerns of persons at risk – learning what a person at risk may need from others in order to keep them safe and get more help.  The suicide intervention model – a framework connecting understanding and assistance. A pocket sized brochure to recall the steps that contribute to saving lives and preventing suicide was also distributed. Networking – the workshop concluded with feedback, information on roles and contacts including community resources.

My humble thanks to our fellow participants who enriched my learning experience with their willingness to network, and to share their thoughts and experiences on this important topic. A very special thank you to Caroline and Kayte for their engaging, professional and uplifting facilitation of the workshop!

If you are interested in ASIST training, please contact Lifeline or email


1 April 2014
For immediate release

Lifeline welcomes Law Commission Recommendations

Lifeline New Zealand has welcomed suicide reporting recommendations by the Law Commission, released today, as a positive step forward. The Law Commission has recommended that media be allowed to report self-inflicted deaths as a ‘suspected suicide’; although reporting deaths as suicide and the manner of death is still prohibited.

Lifeline NZ CEO, Jo Denvir, is pleased with the change as a first step. “We believe this is a positive decision and will replace the current terminology of ‘no suspicious circumstances’, which everyone reads as suicide anyway. It also brings suicide into the conversation in a very subtle wa
y which, for many, can mean a more open dialogue between friends and family members.

While research results around the presentation of suicide in the media is mixed, there is a general agreement that a significant area for creating risk is when means of suicide is reported. As such, Lifeline supports the Law Commission’s recommendation that method of death be withheld.

Lifeline provides suicide prevention and intervention training throughout New Zealand to a range of communities, in addition to providing the 24 hour suicide crisis helpline, 0508 82 88 65.

“Part of what we work towards, as an organisation that regularly works with suicidality, is to reduce the guilt and stigma around suicide,” says Ms Denvir. “When we start talking about it, we find that everyone has a suicide-story. It could be a family member, a friend of the family, or a work colleague. But usually everyone knows of someone.”

Lifeline encourages anyone who would like to know more about suicide prevention to view the awareness videos and whakaaro on

Linda Taylor
021 567 303


February 27, 2014
For immediate release.

Lifeline Aotearoa launches next phase of suicide prevention campaign –‘Start the conversation today – Me tīmata te kōrero i tēnei rā!’

The campaign to date has seen the launch of New Zealand’s first Suicide Helpline 0508 TAUTOKO (82 88 65) and six television adverts encouraging people to reach out for help, while also showing how suicide affects us all, and is a community issue.

Lifeline will release a series of thirty-five long and short web-whakaaro from Maori and Pasifika community members who wanted to contribute something meaningful about the topic of suicide. 

"This next phase consists of a series of web-whakaaro. Whakaaro can mean 'thought, opinion, idea or gift' in te reo Māori, which I think captures what this next phase is all about." says Lifeline CEO, Jo Denvir.

"It's about positive engagement with members of the Maori and Pasifika community, where we can listen and share together in the many diverse thoughts or whakaaro around this issue.”

This week Lifeline showcases whakaaro from Pacific Inc and Le Va CEO Dr Monique Faleafa, Māori broadcaster and producer Annabelle Lee Harris, Māori actor, writer, poet, presenter and eco-warrior Anatonio Te Maioha and actress Amber Cureen

The campaign has been running since 2011 and over the past two years Maori Television and tvCentral have picked the TAUTOKO adverts up.

“We look forward to a future where TVNZ and TV3 take up the opportunity to reach out to their viewers as well.” Ms Denvir says. “But its baby steps, you have to go at the same pace as the community, so we can all hopefully end up together in the same place.”

To check out Lifeline’s Suicide Prevention Education web-whakaaro series click here.

If you, or someone you know is thinking about suicide, or if you have been affected by the death or injury of someone to suicide, call 0508 TAUTOKO (82 88 65) for support from trained suicide first aid professionals.