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Focus on male and Maori suicide rates still needed

MEDIA RELEASE

17 December 2009

Suicide trending down but greater focus on male and Maori suicide rates still needed

Figures released today that show the youth suicide rate has declined by 46.6 percent since the peak in 1995.

The overall rate of suicide has decreased 27.3 percent, since the peak rate in 1998, continuing the downward trend observed over the last decade.

However, the male suicide rate is over three times higher than that of women, and this over-representation continues to be an area of concern.

The figures, which were released by the Ministry of Health, relate to deaths in 2007, the most recent data available; 483 deaths by suicide were recorded that year, of which 370 were male.

“The reduction in youth suicide is encouraging but there is no room for complacency,” Merryn Statham, Director of Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand (SPINZ) says. “There are many factors that can affect young people, such as a disruptive family life, relationship issues or acceptance of sexual orientation.”

A particular area of concern is the rate of Maori suicide: 97 Maori people died by suicide in 2007. This shows a 19.1 decrease from the peak rate in 1998, but the rate for Maori continues to be significantly higher than for non-Maori.

Per 100,000 population there were 16.1 Maori deaths in 2007, compared to 9.9 non-Maori, approximately 60 percent of the Maori rate.

“This disparity is unacceptable,” Statham says. “In September, Te Whakauruora, a Maori suicide prevention resource, was launched and it’s essential that we work to implement approaches that can really make a difference for Maori communities.”

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There was also a significant difference in rates between the most deprived areas and the least deprived – 13.3 deaths per 100,000 population compared to 7.7.

Te Whakauruora is available to order through the Mental Health Foundation’s website, www.mentalhealth.org.nz, or can be viewed online on the SPINZ website, www.spinz.org.nz Other suicide prevention information and resources are also available through the SPINZ website.

“Many suicides are preventable,” Statham concludes. “Someone expressing suicidal thoughts needs to be taken seriously. Seek professional help or ring 111 if there is an immediate crisis.”

ENDS

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