Teen suicide rate has chief coroner worried

SHANE COWLISHAW
EMPLOYMENT AND JUSTICE REPORTER
Last updated 16:00 03/09/2012

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A child aged between five and nine committed suicide last year as an almost 50 per cent jump in New Zealand teenagers taking their own lives has the chief coroner worried.

Judge Neil MacLean this morning released the provisional suicide statistics for the year ending 30 June 2012.

A suicide involving a child aged between 5 and 9 was also recorded, but Judge MacLean said the sensitive nature of the case prevented him from discussing it.

A total of 547 suicides were referred to the coroner for the year, a slight decrease on the 558 from the previous year.

Suicide rates in the Wellington region continue to drop at 48, down from 52 the year before.

In 2007/2008 when comprehensive statistics began to be recorded the region recorded its highest level ever of 64.

The following year it dropped to 40, the lowest level, before rising to 57 in 2009/2010.

Nationally teenagers aged between 15 and 19 recorded the highest level of suicide, with 80 people taking their lives.

This was a jump of 24 from the previous year, a spike that Judge MacLean singled out as a concerning trend.

''It's a figure that's concerning, to me not only as a New Zealander but as a coroner.

''I'm concerned we don't seem to be making any impact, there's no downward trend at all.''

Judge MacLean said it was important coroners continued to bring the issue of suicide out of the shadows but he had no silver bullet to solve the problem of New Zealand's unusually high suicide rate.

The high number of Maori suicides was also extremely worrying while the Christchurch region also experienced a spike from 67 in 2010/2011 to 81.

The phenomenon of suicides dropping off after a national disaster and then increasing had been observed elsewhere, including the floods in Queensland and bushfires in Victoria, Judge MacLean said.

He expected rates in Christchurch to return to ''somewhat normal'' during the next year.

Contact Shane Cowlishaw
Employment and justice reporter
Email: shane.cowlishaw@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @scowlishaw

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