Statistics show sharp rise in number of suicides

There has been a sharp increase in the number of people committing suicide, new statistics show.

The coroner revealed on Friday 668 people died by suspected suicide from July 2017-June 2018. It's the fourth year in a row the number has increased, and 10 percent more than the previous year's figure of 606.

"It's a tragedy to see the number of self-inflicted deaths increase again," said chief coroner Judge Deborah Marshall.

"We need to keep talking about how to recognise the signs that someone may want to take their own life. If someone expresses thoughts and feelings about suicide, take them seriously."

The Mental Health Foundation said in a statement it is "deeply saddened" by the increase. It said Māori continue to be disproportionately represented in the statistics.

"Today we will take some time to reflect on the loss of each person who died by suicide this year," MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says.

"I know from my own experience that these are deeply personal tragedies and my deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to all those who have lost someone to suicide.

"If you know someone who is grieving, reach out to them today. Check in and ask how they are and how you can help. News like this can be especially overwhelming if you have recently lost someone to suicide."

Victoria University lecturer Chris Bowden, who specialises in bereavement and suicide, said he hopes the mental health enquiry will find some solutions.

"It is disappointing but not surprising that we have seen an increase in the number of suicides in New Zealand," he said.

"I have some hope that the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry will help highlight some important issues and solutions."

Suicide Mortality Review Committee chair Prof Rob Kydd said the figures were tragic.

"Today's figures represent unacceptably tragic losses, and we are working on better understanding the numbers and the lives of the people behind them.

"Suicide in New Zealand remains a complex problem - there is no single cause and there will be no single solution. We must work more closely together across all sectors and communities; it is not just a health issue."

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick said the numbers were heartbreaking.

"These are not just statistics. Each number is a life of an incredible person with whānau and friends who'll be experiencing immense loss.

 "This is a heart-breaking crisis, and one that is ripping through communities, disproportionately among our young people and among Māori."

The Public Services Association said the figures show the need for system-wide change.

"As the union for mental health, we know those working within the system are doing their best amid challenging circumstances," national secretary Erin Polaczuk said.

"We need well-resourced mental health and services, particularly targeting at-risk groups like Māori men.

"But we also need social services in place that will enable people to seek help at an early stage - and that will address the socio-economic factors that contribute to suicidal behaviour."

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