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Glimmers of light amidst the darkness of suicide in NZ

Glimmers of light amidst the darkness of suicide in New Zealand


Latest provisional figures from the Chief Coroner for the year ending 30 June 2014, show an encouraging decline in the number of deaths by suicide among young people aged between 15 and 24 years with 110 suicides compared with 144 last year. The figures also suggest that suicide deaths amongst Māori may have stabilised as have suicide deaths in Christchurch, which, like last year’s figures, are back to pre-earthquake levels.

The total number of suicides for the year (2013/14) was 529, a decrease of 12 from last year (2012/13), which is the lowest number by two since the annual coronial figures were first produced for the 2007/08 year.

“It is difficult to take something positive out of a situation where so many New Zealanders find their personal circumstance so desperate they feel compelled to take their own lives. As Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean says overall suicide numbers remain stubbornly high, but progress has been made with an overall reduction in numbers and in particular, noticeably fewer suicides among young New Zealanders” says Associate Health Minister
Peter Dunne.

“Concerted community and health agency programmes and activities have been effective in helping to reduce suicides amongst our youth and that is positive, and credit must go to everybody who has taken a stand on this issue or made the brave decision to reach out and ask for help.

“Sadly however, the provisional figures show an increase in the number of suicides amongst senior citizens.

The number of suicides recorded in over-60 year olds went up from 75 in 2012/13 to 97 in 2013/14. Judge MacLean has observed that the rise in older people taking their own lives, which he highlighted last year, has continued, particularly for the above-80-year-old age cohort. Clearly it is an age group where, collectively, we need to understand why this is occurring and what specific measures we can take to address the worrying development”, says Mr Dunne.

“Addressing the complex and challenging issue of suicide requires everyone to work together: communities, whānau, families and individuals, government agencies and NGOs. The whole of society has a role to play in reducing the number of deaths by suicide.”

Last year saw the release of the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013-2016 through which an additional $25 million was allocated over 4 years to address the issue. This 30-point action plan is the next step in the Government’s commitment to address New Zealand’s high suicide rates and builds on work and investment in the suicide prevention area, including previous government programmes.

“The Action Plan has been designed as a programme that engages all New Zealanders. It aims to address a range of factors that are associated with suicide including strengthening support for family, whānau and communities and extending existing services, specifically addressing geographical gaps in the coverage of services,” says Mr Dunne.

A wide range of other cross-agency activities also contribute to suicide prevention. These include: the Children’s Action Plan, the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, Whānau Ora, and Better Public Services.

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