The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is deeply saddened by New Zealand's annual provisional suicide statistics released today.
The statistics show 579 people died by suicide in the 2015/16 year – the highest number of suicides since the Coroner’s Office began keeping records in 2007/08. Last year’s total was 564 deaths by suicide.
“We send our deepest condolences to the families, whānau, colleagues and friends who have lost someone they loved to suicide,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says.
“It’s not uncommon for people who feel suicidal to believe their loved ones would be happier without them, that they are a burden to their families. Today it’s important to acknowledge that this is profoundly untrue.”
While the numbers are distressing, the MHF would like to encourage people to remember that suicide is preventable.
“We know that some people have lost hope that things can get better – too many of us have come to accept the way things are for our most vulnerable people and to believe that things cannot change.”
Factors that contribute to people feeling suicidal include; experiencing depression or other mental health problems, poverty, family violence, abusing substances such as drugs or alcohol and not being able to access support to cope with distress.
“To prevent suicide in New Zealand, we must take a hard look at these factors and work to address them,” Mr Robinson says.
Having suicidal thoughts or feelings is not uncommon. Many people will think of suicide at some time in their lives, and the vast majority will recover.
“In most cases friends, whānau, workmates and neighbours will provide support along with professional services, and people will recover and live well.
The MHF strongly agrees with Chief Coroner Judge Marshall that family, friends and colleagues need to be assisted to support loved ones they are concerned about.
“The number of suicides has gone up and the rate per 100,000 head of population remains too high,” Mr Robinson says.
This year's statistics show:
“We need to build a social movement where people feel confident to have courageous conversations about what’s going on for them, and for their loved ones to listen without judging and to help them find the support they need.”
The government has a key role to play in supporting the community to care and take action to help those in need and to ensure professional supports are easily accessible.
“Today we strongly urge the Government to take a hard look at its suicide prevention strategy and ensure that it is comprehensive, joins the dots between its activities and builds to have a measurable impact on preventing suicides,” Mr Robinson says.
To prevent suicide, New Zealand must also start investing in wellbeing – that is, ensuring that most people adopt behaviours that build their feelings of positive mental health and have the skills and tools to overcome difficult times.
“We have the knowledge of how to do this,” Mr Robinson says. “We will see improvement in our suicide numbers when we take action to increase the wellbeing of all New Zealanders, and help ordinary Kiwis to support one another.”
For further information or comment, please contact:
021 740 454
For more information about suicide prevention, see www.mentalhealth.org.nz/suicideprevention
Note to journalists: Please ensure all coverage of these statistics includes information about suicide prevention and reference to accurate and appropriate helplines. The Mental Health Foundation’s list of recommended helplines is below. All services are available 24/7.
Lifeline - 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757 to talk to a trained counsellor
Samaritans - 0800 726 666
Youthline - 0800 376 633. Text 234 free between 8am and midnight, or email email@example.com
Healthline - 0800 611 116
For more information about support and services available to you, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812 during office hours or email firstname.lastname@example.org