Coroner calls for greater efforts to prevent suicide
The chief coroner is calling for a renewed focus on preventing self-inflicted deaths as New Zealand's suicide rate remains stubbornly high.
Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall's call for more discussion about the need for everyone to recognise the risks in people they know is also backed by the Mental Health Foundation, which is pushing for better co-ordination to prevent suicide.
"In the last year, we've seen a lot of discussion about suicide and the incredible emotional toll it takes on those who are left behind. While acknowledging that people are taking their own lives is important, it is only part of the conversation about suicide in the community," Marshall said.
"What is equally important is our discussion around how we can prevent suicides and how everyone – family, friends and colleagues – is able to recognise someone at risk and ensure they get the professional help they need."
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Thirty-five people in the area covered by the MidCentral District Health Board committed suicide in 2016-17, according to provisional figures released by the coroner on Monday.
That was the second-highest number for the region in the past 10 years and well up on the 22 people who took their own lives the previous year.
The increase was in line with the national trend – 606 people died by suicide across the country – the highest number of deaths since provisional statistics were first recorded in the 2007-08 year.
The Mental Health Foundation said the increase was devastating.
"The figures are shocking, and I want firstly to extend my sincerest condolences to all those who have lost someone to suicide," foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said.
The increase in numbers was a sobering reflection on the failure of New Zealand to come together to prevent suicide in a co-ordinated way, he said.
There were 273 people to die by suicide in the area covered by the MidCentral DHB in the past 10 years.
However, the latest figures were still lower than the 41 recorded deaths in 2013-14.
It was the third year in a row the national number of suicides had increased.
It followed the previous year's total of 579, and 564 in the year before that.
Although the suicide rate per 100,000 people increased from 12.33 in 2015-16, to 12.64 in 2016-17, it was still down slightly from the highest rate recorded of 12.65 in 2010-11.
The increasing numbers showed the Government's approach was not working and needed to be rethought, said chief researcher for Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education and Research, Maria Bradshaw.
"If we keep doing what we are currently doing, we can expect numbers to keep rising."
The Kiwi non-profit organisation released a report in June criticising the health-based approach to suicide as narrow and ineffective. Issues included reliance on medication, overlooking wider social issues and lack of data gathering.
There needed to be more caution about prescribing anti-depressants, according to the organisation.
The latest provisional figures showed a ratio of three men to one woman dying from suicide.
The 20- to 24-year-old age bracket had the highest number of deaths, at 79, followed by 64 deaths in both the age brackets of 25-29 and 40-44.
The Maori suicide number also rose to 130, up one from the previous year. Maori also had the highest suicide rate of all ethnic groups, at 21.73.
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
Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633.
0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754.