National suicide statistics shocking, but numbers in MidCentral decrease
The number of people taking their own lives has dropped in the wider Manawatu region, despite a nationwide increase.
New Zealand's annual provisional suicide statistics, released on Tuesday, showed the country's suicide toll for the past year was the worst since the Coroner's Office began keeping records in 2008.
Some 579 people committed suicide in the 2015/16 financial year – 15 more people than the previous year. Although the number of deaths is at an all-time high, the rate of suicides per 100,000 people is slightly below the rate in 2010/11.
However, the suicide statistics for the MidCentral District Health Board region has bucked the trend, decreasing over the past three years.
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The figures spiked at 41 in 2013/14, then dropped to 27 in 2014/15. They have since decreased further, to 22 people, in 2015/16.
Highbury Whanau Centre psychologist Alicia Moxon said the drop in suicides showed preventative strategies and action plans were working in the region.
While there were many mental health services available to people in Palmerston North, they were under strain, she said.
Moxton said she began noticing an increase in 19-22 year olds using the centre for mental health support starting about mid-way through 2015.
As students often struggled to manage their studies, workload, finances, part-time work and commitments, the stress and pressure could act as a trigger for mental health problems.
Many of the young people she saw were dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.
She said the suicide statistics for women, students and young people in New Zealand were particularly concerning.
The national female suicide rate is the highest on record, with 170 women taking their own lives during the past year.
Moxton said more education, suicide prevention campaigns, and strong television campaigns were needed.
The provisional statistics show 55 students in New Zealand committed suicide in the past year – the highest student suicide toll since records began. The number had gradually increased over the past 10 years.
Massey University Students' Association advocacy co-ordinator and social worker Kerry Howe said the toll was shocking.
"One is heartbreaking to me, so 55 – that's really, really heartbreaking."
She said there had been an increase in students turns to the association with a range of problems and after building a rapport with them, they often referred them on to mental health services for additional support.
The association runs events throughout the year to ensure students took time away from the stress of their study.
Depression prevention advocate Mike King spoke at the Palmerston North campus last year, while a mother who lost her daughter to a suspected suicide talked to students this year.
Howe said it was important to get people talking about mental health, prevention and ensuring proper education was available.
Chief coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said the rate of people dying by suicide remained consistent and showed New Zealand had a long way to go in turning its "unacceptably high" total around.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
Acute care team (ACT) 0800 653 357. A 24/7 helpline from Palmerston North to Waikanae.
Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).