Decline in suicide linked to awareness

KAT DUGGAN
Last updated 10:16 21/08/2014

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A decline in the number of suicides in Marlborough and Nelson has been linked to increased awareness of mental illness and its treatment.

Provisional figures released yesterday showed a decrease in the number of suicides in the area for the second year running.

Thirteen people in the region took their own lives, down from 17 the year before, and 24 for the 2011-2012 year.

National suicide rates were the second-lowest since records began seven years ago, at 529.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board mental health services clinical director and psychiatrist Heather McPherson said the figures released by chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean were provisional.

The board was aware of eight of the cases, of which at least two had not yet been confirmed as suicides.

It was hard to explain the decrease, but an increase in awareness of mental illness, and support networks could have played a role, McPherson said.

"I would like to think there's a greater awareness, particularly of depression and the availability of mental health services," she said.

Statistically, those suffering from mental illness were at higher risk of suicide, but people going through stress were also at risk.

Turning to substance abuse, including alcohol, was also dangerous, as people became more likely to act on suicidal thoughts, McPherson said.

It was important they instead sought help from their GP, a mental health service provider, or their friends and family.

Coroner Neil MacLean said it was encouraging to see a slight drop in numbers, but the overall rate was still stubbornly high.

"This year's numbers have moved in the right direction but not by much. In spite of this it's important we focus on the positives and there are some we can take from the statistics."

Youth suicide rates were significantly down on last year, at 110 from 144 nationwide.

The findings included the lowest numbers of suicides in the 15 to 19-year-old age group in the last seven years, dropping from 63 in 2012-2013 to 46 in the past year.

Of the cases known to the Nelson Marlborough DHB, most were in the middle-age range, McPherson said.

"The drop in teen suicide is good news. These are some of the toughest and most tragic cases coroners deal with," MacLean said.

"I am aware that a lot of effort both nationally and at community grassroots level has gone into responding to the challenges posed by youth suicide, and I'd like to think the drop is a result of this."

IT'S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP

NMDHB Mental Health Crisis Services 03 5209999 (Marlborough)

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Youthline 0800 37 66 33, txt 027 4 YOUTHS, or cellphone call free 0800 211 211;

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Samaritans 0800 726 666

A GP can provide confidential support and referrals.

Useful websites are:

www.depression.org.nz, www.thelowdown.co.nz, www.spinz.org.nz,

- The Marlborough Express

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