Canterbury records most suicides in New Zealand

Canterbury has recorded its highest annual suicide total since the earthquakes.
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Canterbury has recorded its highest annual suicide total since the earthquakes.

Canterbury has recorded its highest suicide total in nearly a decade and the most self-inflicted deaths of any region in the past year, figures show.

Seventy-eight people died by suicide in Canterbury in the year to June, up from 61 in 2014-15. The region's previous high was 74 in 2009-10.

The figures, released by chief coroner Judge Deborah Marshall on Tuesday, are based on district health board (DHB) boundaries. South Canterbury is recorded separately and the Auckland and Wellington regions are broken into several areas. Canterbury is the second-largest DHB region and many others are significantly smaller.

Canterbury's 2015-16 figure is the highest since records began in 2007-08 and well up on the last three years which had 60, 68, and 61 deaths respectively.

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Canterbury chief medical officer Dr Sue Nightingale said there had been an increase in suicides at the end of 2015 and the start of this year. The spike was concerning, but it was not possible to know if it was a trend, she said.

"These are only provisional statistics but we will be watching how the numbers track very closely."

The latest figure is the highest annual total since the earthquakes. Health services have spoken of increased stress among Cantabrians since the disaster and growing pressure on mental health services.

"We have had an increase in presentations to mental health services since the earthquake stress but this does not necessarily translate into suicide risk," Nightingale said.

"We continue to encourage people to get help [through their GP or mental health services] if they or loved ones are suicidal.

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"We are connecting with other agencies to find better ways of connecting with vulnerable people. There are well-being programmes that can be run by businesses and agencies to ensure that there is mentoring for staff and early identification of people at risk."

In January, Stuff reported that Canterbury had had more attempted suicides than any other region.

Canterbury police district commander Superintendent John Price said at the time that it seemed people had "got to a stage in their lives where they're saying 'Please come and help'".

"We've got to take some notes that the community is still hurting after the earthquakes and people are still crying out for help."

Nationally, the suicide rate in 2015-16 was consistent. Judge Marshall said more discussion was needed regarding suicide prevention and how those at risk could get help.

"Everyone should recognise the importance of taking suicidal thoughts seriously and knowing where to get help."  

WHERE TO GET HELP

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 talk@youthline.co.nz.

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - 0800 9428 787, Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.

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, who 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 more information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812.

 - Stuff

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