Suicide prevention plan 'making inroads'

Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014

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A suicide prevention action plan led by the Southern District Health Board appears to be making inroads.

The number of suicides for the Southern board region, which includes Southland and Otago, dropped to 31 for the 2013-14 year, down from 47 in 2012-13.

Provisional annual suicide figures were released yesterday by chief coroner Judge Neil Maclean, and show 529 people committed suicide in New Zealand. Southland was among the worst three DHB regions for suicide for the five years from 2006 to 2010, with significantly higher suicide rates than the New Zealand rate.

In 2009-10, 60 people in the Southland DHB area committed suicide. This fell to 45 in 2010-11 and then 42 in 2011-12, and 47 in 2012-13.

Southern DHB Medical Officer of Health Marion Poore stopped short of directly attributing the decrease in the past year to the prevention action plan.

"While we are heartened that the number of completed suicides in our district has dropped by 16 from the previous year, it is too soon to know if this is an ongoing trend."

Social agencies including the DHB and Kia Piki te Ora had been implementing prevention strategies, she said.

"Currently many people in local communities in the Southern DHB are developing and implementing excellent suicide prevention and post-vention programmes and we acknowledge the commitment these people have to supporting their communities in this way."

Objectives of the strategy include training community health and social support service staff, families, whanau, hapu and community members in identifying and supporting people at risk of suicide.

Supporting families and communities after a suicide, "especially when there are concerns of suicide clusters and suicide contagion", was another objective.

Data related to suicide deaths and self-harm are now collected and shared by agencies to assist in suicide prevention.

While the reduction nationally was encouraging, Maclean said the overall rate was still "stubbornly high and disappointingly consistent".

"In spite of this, it's important we focus on the positives and there are some we can take from the statistics."

A comment on the national number of suicides from Bereaved After Suicide Southland Facebook page echoed the same sentiment.

"Whilst this is down 12 from last year, 529 is too many individuals taking their lives!"

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- The Southland Times

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