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1999 Youth Suicide Statistics Lowest Since 1987

Provisional 1999 Youth Suicide Statistics Lowest Since 1987

THE Ministry of Health welcomes new figures released today showing a significant decline in the number of youth suicide deaths in 1999 but warns there is no room for complacency.

Provisional 1999 youth suicide statistics released today by the Ministry of Health show a significant reduction in total youth suicide deaths of 24 percent since 1995. This is the lowest total since 1987.

In 1999, 119 young people (aged 15-24) took their lives compared with a high of 156 in 1995 and a low of 113 in 1987. Suicide deaths have reduced among both Maori and non-Maori, although there was a slight increase among females.

These statistics are currently only provisional as there are a small number of outstanding youth deaths awaiting a coroner's finding.

The New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy was put in place early in 1998.

"It is encouraging to know these rates can come down but we must continue implementing the strategy, particularly to address suicide among Maori youth (taitamariki), " said Deputy Director-General of Maori Health Ria Earp.

Work is underway to address the troubling fact young Maori are still more likely to die from suicide than other New Zealanders.

"The Ministry of Health is currently setting up Maori community development initiatives in six locations within New Zealand to address suicide amongst young Maori. These will be based in the Far North, Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Whanganui/Rangitikei, the top of the South Island and in the area from Kaikoura to Waimate," Ms Earp said.

"These initiatives will focus on building up communities so they are more responsive to (taitamariki) in need. This will include developing programmes to strengthen the whanau and communities taitamariki grow up in."

A national training and skill development initiative is also being developed and will focus on suicide prevention strategies tailored specifically for Maori.

Ms Earp said the $5.5 million over four years for the taitamariki programme was an important element of the Government's work to address inequalities in health.

The recent Budget announcement of new funding for youth suicide prevention initiatives and the appointment of a national coordinator for the Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy at the Ministry of Youth Affairs were signals Government agencies were committed to addressing this issue across a range of sectors, Ms Earp said.

Reducing suicide and suicide attempts among all age groups is a priority health objective under the New Zealand Health Strategy and should be a focus for District Health Boards.

"Although there is no one cause and no single way to address the issue of suicide, Government and the community need to continue working together with a range of initiatives to reduce and prevent suicide. We also thank community groups for the work they have done and the part this has played in the decrease in youth suicides," Ms Earp said.

It is expected that suicide statistics for all age groups will be available later in the year. The provisional 1999 youth suicide statistics are available from the New Zealand Heath Information web site: www.nzhis.govt.nz

END


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