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MHF response to release of provisional suicide statistics

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is deeply saddened by the news that the number of New Zealanders who died by suspected suicide in the last year has increased, and is now significantly higher than it has been in the last decade.

“Today we will take some time to reflect on the loss of each person who died by suicide this year,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “I know from my own experience that these are deeply personal tragedies and my deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to all those who have lost someone to suicide.”

“If you know someone who is grieving, reach out to them today. Check in and ask how they are and how you can help. News like this can be especially overwhelming if you have recently lost someone to suicide.”

It is equally important to check in with those who may be experiencing depression or finding life hard.

“If you’re worried about someone you know, talk to them today. We must be ready to offer our awhi and aroha (support and love) and work with them to get them the support they need and deserve.”

For people who are currently feeling suicidal, reading about these statistics can be especially hard. It can reinforce feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm.

“Take a break from the news today if you need to. Be kind to yourself, and try to remember that you won’t always feel like this. As hard as it is, try to reach out and talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust, or call a helpline.”

Today’s statistics – which show that 668 people died by suspected suicide from July 2017-June 2018 – show that New Zealand’s provisional suicide rate is now the highest it has been this century.

Māori continue to be disproportionately affected by suicide, particularly Māori men.

“We know what we need to change these statistics,” MHF Māori development manager Ellen Norman says. “It’s time for us to empower Māori and give them the resources they need to continue to strengthen our whānau and communities.

“We can’t ignore the social determinants of suicide, including poverty, violence and the legacy of colonisation. We won’t see a shift in our suicide rates until we start to address these factors.”

“Today you’ll hear from lots of people expressing shock and anger at these statistics,” Mr Robinson says. “We share those feelings. But we must not allow ourselves to lose hope that we will turn these numbers around and prevent suicide in Aotearoa.”

In the 1990s New Zealanders made a unified effort to reduce suicide – and it worked. This major work has lost momentum and we’re going backwards. This must be urgently addressed.

“There are so many people around New Zealand working to prevent suicide. They’re doing great work and they’re saving lives every day,” Mr Robinson says. “Lifekeepers is a great example of effective, community-driven solutions to suicide, and there are many more. We must make the effort to learn from the successes of these initiatives and expand their reach to communities across Aotearoa.”

The Foundation also believes everyone can benefit from learning from people who have recovered from feeling suicidal.

“Thousands of people have come through times of feeling suicidal and survived. We need to listen to what worked for them and why,” Mr Robinson says. “There’s no single solution – there are lots of things that will help, and all of us - government, community, businesses, whānau – everyone – need to work on this together.”

“As a nation we can turn this tragic situation around, if we listen to what is working, resource it and join the dots into a concerted plan of action.” Mr Robinson says.

“The last Government dropped the ball and allowed our suicide prevention strategy to lapse without replacement,” Mr Robinson says. “This government has instructed the Mental Health Inquiry to come up with a plan. Leadership from government, resources and an action plan are needed urgently. There is no time to waste.”


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