Suicide rate increases for third year in a row

Suicide rate increases for third year in a row
Photo credit: Getty

The number of people who died by suicide in New Zealand has increased for the third year in a row. 

Six hundred and six people committed suicide in the 2016/2017 year, according to provisional figures released by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall on Monday.

It is the highest actual figure since records began, although the rate of death per 100,000 people has remained relatively constant over the last decade.

The statistics also show Māori continue to have the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group. 

Judge Marshall said while the emotional impact of suicide has been discussed over the past year, more discussion about prevention is needed. 

"What is equally important is our discussion around how we can prevent suicides and how everyone - family, friends and colleagues - is able to recognise someone at risk and ensure they get the professional help they need."

Māori suicide numbers increased by one from last year, with 130 deaths. The Māori suicide rate is 21.73 per 100,000 people. 

The rate of suicide is highest among the 20 - 24 year-old age group, which had 79 deaths. 

This is followed by the 25 - 29 year-old and 40 - 44 year-old age groups, each of which had 64 deaths.

The rate per 100,000 people is higher for men at 19.36, while for women it is 6.12.

Last year the total number of recorded suicides was 579 (for 2015/2016), and the year before that the figure was 564 (2014/2015). 

Mental Health Foundation 'devastated' by increase 

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says the figures are "shocking" and show New Zealand's failure to work together to prevent suicide in a coordinated way. Even though thousands of people are working to prevent suicide, Mr Robinson says there's a lack of a unified prevention strategy between government agencies, communities and individuals.

The Government's draft suicide prevention suicide strategy attracted criticism after its release earlier this year, and mental health advocate Mike King resigned from a Government panel in protest.  

"The widespread criticism of the draft suicide prevention strategy demonstrates that the Government needs to work much harder to develop a plan for significant change that the community is inspired by and supports. A target for reducing deaths would be a good step in the right direction," Mr Robinson said.

He wanted to see more resources directed to schools for prevention initiatives, and universal access to mental health care. 

Where to find help and support:

  • Lifeline  0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline  0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Healthline  0800 611 116
  • Samaritans  0800 726 666 
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Mental Health Foundation