New Zealand's suicide statistics increase on last year

Warning: This article discusses suicide. 

New Zealand's suicide rates increased in the last year.

In the year to June 30, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year. 

In the year 2017 - 2018, the suicide rate was 13.67 deaths per 100,000 people. That's since increased to 13.93 in 2018 - 2019.

The youth suicide rate is also up, particularly in the 15 - 19 age range, with 20 more deaths by suicide than the year before. Eighty-four young New Zealanders between the ages of 10 and 19 died by suicide in the 2018 - 2019 period. Eleven of them were under the age of 15.

Ninety-one Kiwis aged 20 - 24 died by suicide, 15 more than the previous year.

There was also an increase in the suicide rate among Māori and Pacific people. The Māori suicide rate increased from 23.72 to 28.23 per 100,000 - there were 169 deaths in the 2018 - 2019 period, up from 142.

The Pacific suicide rate went from 7.77 to 11.49, from 23 to 34 deaths. 

There was a drop in the European suicide rate, down from 13.94 (462 deaths) to 13.46 (446 deaths).

The suicide rate has been steadily increasing over the last 12 years. In the year 2007 - 2008, the rate was 540 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000.

Shaun Robinson, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, called the findings a "really horrendous result".

"The time has passed to raise awareness of suicide," he told media. "We now need to raise awareness of suicide prevention and what is working."

After the release of the statistics on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated that she doesn't believe we need a suicide reduction target.

"There is no question our suicide rate is too high," she told media at her weekly post-Cabinet conference. "It's one of our biggest long-term challenges, not just as a Government, but as a nation."

She says she questions whether a target would help to bring the suicide rate down, as she has yet to see any convincing evidence.

"A target implies we have a tolerance for suicide, and we do not. The goal is for no one to be lost to suicide."

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall offered her condolences to all communities affected by suicide. She said there are "numerous" reasons people take their own life, and New Zealanders need to support those around them.

"It's up to all of us to look out for our family, friends and neighbours – to ask how they're going and coping with pressures in life, and offer our support, to offer hope. 

"Because there is hope. I'm encouraged by the suicide prevention initiatives taking place, the conversations people are having, and the success stories of individuals who battled with suicidal thoughts but have come through stronger the other side. 

"We mourn those who died by suicide, but for those listening who are in the midst of pain, suicide doesn’t have to be how your story ends.  The truth is there is always another option, there are people you can speak to, there's something more to live for." 

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