Allowing suicides to go under the radar continues to be a problem for suicide prevention in New Zealand, says a Taranaki mental health advocate.
National statistics released yesterday by chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean showed 547 suicides had been recorded in the period from July 2011 to June 2012 - a drop of 11 since last year.
Despite the decrease, Judge MacLean said the latest figures showed some concerning trends.
“Significant is the jump in teenage suicide numbers, and the continued rise of Maori suicides, in particular young Maori," he said.
The number of suicides in the 15-to-19-year-old group rose from 56 to 80 during the past year, while the number of Maori suicides increased for most age groups, in particular 15-to-19-year-olds, with 37 - almost double the average of the previous four years.
Like Minds Taranaki manager Gordon Hudson said the statistics on Maori had come as a huge surprise.
"This has come under the radar and is part of the problem of not bringing suicides out into open discussion. That's a real major problem for New Zealand," he said.
"The past process of keeping it hidden away and not exposed to the media has immediately brought a code of silence about it, which means it's off the radar as far as politicians are concerned as well, and is therefore under-resourced."
Mr Hudson's view was shared by Judge MacLean.
“I continue to believe we need to gently bring the issue of suicide from out of the shadows,” he said.
‘"The public are entitled to know and they need to know."
The recent statistics grouped Taranaki within the Palmerston North coronial region, which showed 51 suicides in the past year.
The figure remained consistent with findings from the past four years, however, Mr Hudson said the static figures were nothing to be proud of.
"In Taranaki, we are still higher than the national average and that is something we need to address.
"We have a much higher rate in the older age group than nationally," he said.
While national figures reflected a spike in youth and Maori suicide, Mr Hudson said it was still older, rural men in Taranaki who were most at risk.
"Particularly those who have experienced mental illness," he said.
A suicide prevention forum, featuring local MPs and central region coroner Tim Scott, is scheduled for Taranaki on September 14, which Mr Hudson said would focus on the rural male.
"Taranaki is probably way ahead of most regions in terms of suicide prevention activity, but we still need to increase what we are doing."
While the nation had experienced a slight drop in suicide statistics, Mr Hudson said the rate was still horrendous and almost double that of the road toll.
Judge MacLean said the road toll figure used to be around the same as the suicide rate, but had gone on to plummet. "Our suicide figures seem to remain stubbornly the same," he said.
Yesterday's figures also showed the suicide of a boy in the 5-to-9-year-old age group, which is the youngest suicide case since data collection began in 2007.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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