mental health

New Zealand's Appalling Suicide Rate Hits a New Record

New figures show 2017 has been our worst year yet.

by Skara Bohny
28 August 2017, 1:27am

Statistics released today show suicide rates have increased for the third year in a row.

In 2016-2017, 606 people died by suspected suicide. That's compared to 579 people last year, and 564 people in the year before that. 2017 marks the highest number of suspected suicides since the coroner's office started releasing figures ten years ago. The rate of suicide has increased from 11.73 per 100,000 people in 2013/2014 to 12.64 this year. As usual, men and Maori are disproportionately represented.

Agencies including the Mental Health Foundation and Public Service Association have called the numbers "shocking" and "a national disgrace".

"New Zealand's suicide rate—the highest in the developed world for teenagers—should be considered a national disgrace after increasing for the third year in a row, and we simply must do more as a society to reduce this number," PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said in a release.

She called for an urgent independent inquiry into the mental health system—a demand that's been echoed by advocates and families of those who have died over the past year.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the figures were "shocking."
"I want firstly to extend my sincerest condolences to all those who have lost someone to suicide," he said.

The MHF said the increasing numbers were a reflection of the lack of coordinated plans to prevent suicide in New Zealand. Robinson said reaction to the draft suicide prevention strategy, which Mike King this year called "a master-class in butt-covering", was a sign the government needs to be working harder to plan for "significant change".

"A target for reducing deaths would be a good step in the right direction," he said.
He said the successful programmes were being let down by a lack of a unified government strategy.
"It's time for sustained investment in mental health services, including well-resourced and supported crisis services, universal access to early mental health care and a strong, unflinching examination of what is working in our mental health system and what is not," said Robinson.
He said poverty, inequality, racism and homophobia also contributed to New Zealand's high suicide rate.

"We have not yet enacted policies that address these issues as part of a mental health strategy. It's time for this to change," he said.

He said that awareness of suicide had been raised, but "it's no good being aware that suicide happens and is a problem if we're not giving people the skills to actually act to prevent suicide."

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