Region's low suicide rate impresses coroner

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014

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New Zealand's chief coroner is "astonished" by Southland's low suicide rate.

Figures show that between July 2012 and June 2013, 48 suicides were recorded throughout the Southern District, but data suggests that figure will be lower this year.

Chief coroner, Judge Neil MacLean, said the coroner's office had recorded 3 suicides in Southland and 16 in Dunedin from July 2013 to February this year.

"But three is still three too many, our target is zero, and Southland may . . . be the first place to achieve that," he said.

He was "astonished and very impressed" by Southland's resources aimed at providing support to vulnerable people.

MacLean was in Invercargill this week speaking with bereaved families. The visit was part of his plan to encourage communities to speak more openly about suicide.

"I want to encourage people to have discussions about suicide - knowledge will empower us to change this statistic," he said.

Comedian Mike King joined MacLean in Invercargill to talk candidly about his own suicide attempt and his battles with depression.

He described Southland as a "different bunch" and expressed concern at the communities' reluctance to talk about suicide unashamedly.

"You have got this whole generation of people that just will not talk about anything, particularly amongst your farmers, they just go about being stoic," he said.

King said a focus on youth suicide awareness had helped decrease the number of deaths in the group, but the 45 and overs, and particularly, elderly age groups, were still "at risk".

"We have really talked to young people, but the elderly are the forgotten group and their number is increasing - I think it comes down to finding hope and making that age group still feel valued."

HOW TO GET HELP

If you are feeling suicidal or you are concerned about someone else, please call:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Samaritans: 0800 726 666

Are You Ok: 0800456450

In an emergency, dial 111

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