Fewer youngsters taking own lives

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014

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Youth suicide has dropped in New Zealand but children as young as 10 are still taking their own lives.

Four girls and two boys aged between 10 and 14 suffered self-inflicted deaths in the year ending 30 June 2014, new figures show.

Youth suicide numbers (those aged under 24) are significantly down from last year - 110 compared to 144.

"We have also seen the lowest number of suicides in the 15 to 19-year-old cohort in the last seven years with 46, which is down 17 on last year and 34 the year before," Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said.

"The drop in teen suicide is good news. These are the some of the toughest and most tragic cases coroners deal with."

The coroner's office released provisional annual suicide figures for the year ending June 30 2014 yesterday.

Many youth suicides followed "very similar patterns", MacLean said.

"It is sometimes bullying-related or cyber-bullying related or [due to] very difficult upbringings or indulging in dangerous behaviour," he said.

An enduring theme in cases seen by the coroner's office was "the apparent impulsive nature" of young people.

Triggers for self-harming included relationship break-ups or victims receiving "nasty" text messages.

In Christchurch, mental health professionals have been on the lookout for increased suicides following the earthquakes, but statistics have proven otherwise.

The total number of suicides in the city remained steady in the year to June 30, with 69 recorded - one up from 2012/13. Before the February 2011 earthquake, the rate ranged between 69 and 90 a year since 2007.

"The suicide rate plummeted in Christchurch/Canterbury in the period immediately after the earthquake and has kind of stayed down ever since," MacLean said.

The total number of New Zealanders who committed suicide last year fell slightly - to 529, but the figure was still "stubbornly high and disappointingly consistent".

"Overall with the results, there are some encouraging signs. But it depends in which age bracket . . . and gender bracket you look at."

Male suicides were more common across the board (385 compared to 144 female suicides), apart from the under-24 age groups, MacLean said.

"In those young age groups, the male to female ratio is different from the other age brackets. I have no idea why that is," he said.

A trend of increasing suicides among older people continued in the year to June 30, the number recorded in over-60s up from 75 in the previous year to 97. Elderly suicides often happened after "a slow building-up" of stresses from things such as loneliness or alienation from family.

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