Fewer suicides in region, but rate for rural men high

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2012

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The number of people killing themselves in Taranaki has dropped in the past year but rural men are still over-represented in the statistics.

Central region coroner Tim Scott gave a breakdown of the latest national suicide numbers at a suicide prevention forum in New Plymouth yesterday.

From July 2011 to June 2012, 12 men aged between 20 and 64 committed suicide in Taranaki.

Half the men lived in town and half rurally, 10 were Pakeha and two Maori.

Forum organiser and Taranaki suicide prevention co-ordination group chair Fiona Szpetnar-Perez said about 80 people attended the forum.

It featured a panel discussion with Mr Scott as well as Tui Ora's Matua Tony Waru, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, Likeminds' Gordon Hudson, Former Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Neville Wallace, Kerry Babbage from Mates Men's Network, counsellor and author Sylvia Huitson and suicide survivor John White.

Mrs Szpetnar-Perez said on average in Taranaki 20 people a year committed suicide.

"I think it's great that we've had a reduction but even one is too many," she said.

In 2010-11, 17 Taranaki people took their own lives.

Mr Young said the reduction was a positive step, but the number of rural men committing suicide was still troubling.

"There's about 100,000 people in Taranaki and 70,000 live in urban areas and 30,000 live rurally, if you look at that rural urban mix, the proportion per capita of rural suicides is twice those living in town."

People attending the forum grilled Mr Young about what the Government is doing to help people working on the frontline of suicide prevention.

"Last year the Government increased mental health funding by $12 million to $1.25 billion."

Mr Scott said part of his role as coroner was finding out what happened and why.

And he has a theory on how to stop it.

"We have to react to signals. They might be blunt and they might not be. People might be thinking of doing something but the signals might be subtle. Often we will never know if we have helped someone.

"We can all think of examples of when we've given someone help or advice and you just don't know if it may have stopped someone who was suicidal. Sometimes the signals are very clear and we need to respond to that."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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