The highest rate of teen suicide in the developed world

We're the worst in the world for youth suicide.

We're the worst in the world for youth suicide.

New Zealand has the highest rate of teen suicide in the developed world, an OECD report reiterates.

Despite the alarming information the report revealed nothing new.

New Zealand continuously ranked among the worst in the world for our levels of teen suicide.

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In a normal week two teenagers or two children kill themselves, Youthline director Stephen Bell says. About 20 young people will be hospitalised for self-harm each week, he estimated.

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This was New Zealand's shame, he said. If suicide was a contagious disease, Bell said the country would have demanded action.

After 31 years working for Youthline, which operates a crisis line for young people considering self-harm, Bell doesn't think we've got any better. Looking back at when he started, he said the situation was just as bad.

"If you take the hardcore facts, last year there were well over 100 young people who killed themselves. We've gone down and come back. So no. I don't think it's really improved.

"There are some good people and good services, but we really haven't made a change."

Bell said the only way to really reduce New Zealand's suicide rate would be to change communities on an individual basis.

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"Suicide is the ultimate way of leaving a community. If you want to turn that round we've got to make sure that we've got communities that young people want to be a part of and feel safe and secure," he said.

At any given time, Youthline was working with 30 young people at immediate risk of suicide, Bell said.

Ministry of Health mental health director John Crawshaw said improving youth mental health was a priority.

The ministry would focus on "collaboration with communities," he said.

A cross-sector approach to improving youth mental health was essential, Crawshaw​ said.

Programmes to reduce child abuse, family violence and helping "vulnerable families" were just as important as health initiatives, he said.

The Government was spending about $5 million on suicide prevention strategies each year, he said. The funding was announced in 2013 and included education schemes for targeted communities to learn about suicide prevention and mental health.


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

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.

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).

 - Stuff


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