Jacinda Ardern defends refusal to set suicide prevention target

Warning: This article discusses suicide.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is defending her decision to not set a target to reduce the number of suicides, as the rate has grown for the fifth year in a row.

In the year to June 30, 2019, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year according to statistics from the Coroner. 

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.

Ardern said the idea of setting a target was hotly debated in Cabinet, but eventually decided against.

"My concern is you put in a target and then it implies that you have a tolerance, that actually if you hit that then you've succeeded," she told The AM Show. 

"I think we would all agree that every single life matters and there's no tolerance I think. No one would ever, even if we hit a target, be satisfied by that so why should we pretend we would."

She pointed out that even if this year's number halved there would still be hundreds of people lost, which is too many.

"That wouldn't be a cause for celebration because that's over 300 people who have lost their lives and someone who's lost a loved one."

The Government is currently preparing to release its draft suicide prevention strategy, which is overdue since the last one expired in 2016.

Health Minister David Clark said the new document will be released within the next few weeks. Ardern said she's well aware of the Government's responsibility to cut the number.

"Our goal is to make sure that no matter where you live in New Zealand you can get the help that you need. 

"But I think in the conversations I've had with Mike King, he's made the point that we also need to equip every single person in New Zealand to be ready and able to have conversations at any time in case someone in their life, or in their environment, in their community reaches out to them.

"So it's on all of us, but it's particularly on us as a Government and we know that."

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