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Youth suicide figures declining

Youth suicide figures declining

Jim Anderton, Associate Minister of Health today released the youth suicide figures for the year 2000. The latest figures are the lowest since 1986 for both the number and rate of suicide amongst young people.

"The recent decline in youth suicide rates is very encouraging. It suggests that the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy and the wide range of initiatives that are part of the Strategy are having a positive effect. Sadly though, there is still no cause for complacency or celebration because 96 young people still took their lives that year," said Jim Anderton.

Youth suicide is a complex issue and is caused by a range of factors so it is difficult to precisely determine the effectiveness of youth suicide initiatives.

"Although we cannot yet claim with total confidence that the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, released in 1998, has been effective, the signs are positive that it is making a difference. The decline in numbers is definitely significant," Jim Anderton said.

The Strategy, led by the Ministry of Youth Affairs involves a wide range of actions aimed at reducing youth suicide, with a specific focus on addressing suicide among taitamariki (Maori youth). Many of the initiatives focus on the total population, not just young people.

Debbie Edwards, National Co-ordinator - Youth Suicide Prevention, Youth Affairs, said, "The work involves several Government agencies implementing initiatives across a range of sectors, and dozens of community organisations and services.

"There has been a lot of effort and resource put into preventing youth suicide by the government and we are starting to see some really encouraging results."
The range of government initiatives focus on things like supporting the healthy development of young people, providing additional support for young people who are at risk (like mental health services), supporting Maori development, and providing better information for young people, families and people who work with young people.

Ms Edwards said, "The research shows that about 90 per cent of young people who die by suicide have some kind of mental illness, such as depression or have substance abuse problems. In New Zealand, we've now got more and better mental health services for young people than we used to have - the number of staff working full-time in child and youth mental health services grew from 350 to 679 between 1988 and 2001. This is a great improvement, and has probably contributed to the decline, but we need to keep up the momentum towards higher quality mental health and drug abuse services."

In the year 2000 the total number of suicides among New Zealanders aged 15-24 years was 96 (18.1 per 100,000 young people), down from 120 in 1999 and 140 in 1998. This is the lowest total number and rate since 1986 when there were 91 suicides (15.6 per 100,000 young people).

The 2000 statistics show a large drop in the number of female suicide deaths: 15 (5.8 per 100,000) in 2000 which is down from 37 (14.2 per 100 000) in 1999. Male suicide deaths and rates have unfortunately changed little between 1999 and 2000. In 2000 there were 81 deaths (29.9 per 100,000), down slightly from 83 (30.6 per 100,000) in 1999.

Youth suicide deaths have reduced among both Mäori and Non-Mäori females. The Mäori female rate was 7.4 per 100,000, down from 18.7 in 1999, while the Non-Mäori female rate was 5.4, down from 13.1 in 1999.

In 2000, the rate of suicide among Mäori was 25.7 per 100 000, and 16.2 per 100,000 in non-Mäori. Young males continue to experience a high rate of suicide with a Mäori rate of 43.5 in 2000 (42.4 in 1999), and a Non-Mäori rate of 26.4 in 2000 (27.7 in 1999).

"Every suicide is traumatic with far-reaching effects. While the decrease in suicide is good news, we must all try to create an environment where young people feel valued and supported, and where they can get help when they need it.

"Suicide is not only an issue for Youth Affairs and the health system, it's an issue for New Zealand society. Although there is no one cause and no single way to address the issue, Government and the community need to continue working together to further reduce the incidence," said Jim Anderton.

Ms Edwards agrees. "Youth Affairs is committed to furthering youth suicide prevention work across the government, and to working alongside community groups to ensure their initiatives are safe, effective and evidence-based."

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