NZ suicide stats highest ever recorded

NZ suicide stats highest ever recorded

Working together will help bring New Zealand's suicide rates down, health professionals say, with the latest data being the highest on record.

New figures released today show there were 564 deaths in 2014/15 – the highest since records began in 2007/08.

The suicide rate per 100,000 however, dropped below the 2010/11 and 2011/12 years to 12.27 compared to 12.65 and 12.34 respectively.

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshal says it is disappointing the number of suicides this year is 35 higher than last year.

"Over the last eight years I believe we've seen a shift in society's preparedness to have a more open conversation about suicide, but we are not seeing any movement in what is an unfortunate static annual figure," she says.

Preventing suicide involves all New Zealanders and Judge Marshal acknowledged the greater effort being put into it by the likes of the Ministry of Health's recently launched toolkit for District Health Boards and the trial Suicide Mortality Review Committee.

But Labour's justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern says the high statistics mean the Government's plan isn't working.

She says there needs to be a re-think in the way those at high risk are supported.

"More open discussion is one thing, as is better access to information. However a more comprehensive focus on the links between suicide, deprivation and family violence/childhood abuse is also called for.

"At the moment it seems we are not joining all the dots. If we act collectively – that is agencies working alongside communities - on the red flags, then we should be able to make more of an impact on those awful statistics," she says.

This is Judge Marshal's first year as chief coroner and in that she time says researchers and organisations want to help in changing the "appalling rate" of suicide in New Zealand.

She says her job is to look at background information from every suicide to help form a bigger picture about the common aspects around the deaths including relationship issues, economic hardship and drug or alcohol abuse.

Moira Clunie of the Mental Health Foundation agrees, saying a collective effort is needed to decrease the number of suicides.

"I think as a country we all need to think about what we can do as individuals, as organisations, as whanau and communities to support people when they feel that taking their own lives is the only option.

"We need to be talking more about suicide prevention, about what we can all do to help each other and ourselves when we get to that space," she told RadioLIVE.

But Youthline's chief executive thinks there needs to be a change in focus altogether, especially on men.

"Providing services is not going to fix this, we need a culture change and we need people in the community to be standing up and leading the charge.

"If this amount of mortality happens with any other disease we would have a crisis response. We need to have a sense of urgency," he says.

2014_2015 Annual Provisional Suicide Figures

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.

3 News / RadioLIVE