We must keep the light of suicide prevention burning

26 Aug, 2019

MEDIA RELEASE

Statement from Te Rau Ora, Le Va and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

Today the Chief Coroner released Aotearoa’s provisional suicide statistics. 685 people died by suspected suicide in the last year, the highest number on record. Te Rau Ora, Le Va and the Mental Health Foundation join all New Zealanders in mourning these losses and are united in advocating for urgent action to address suicide in Aotearoa.

The statistics show an increase in suicide numbers for Māori and Pasifika.

“Māori have been calling for New Zealand to prioritise Māori suicide prevention and to better understand the issues affecting Māori communities,” Dr Maria Baker, CEO, Te Rau Ora says. “These statistics show just how urgent that call is. Māori are key to the solutions needed in our communities.”

Dr Baker adds there is a need for more investment to counteract the issues that impact Māori lives.

“The increase in deaths for Pasifika people is unacceptable. The time for awareness has passed, we must be taking action and making sure every Pasifika person knows what role they can play in preventing suicide,” says Le Va chief executive and clinical psychologist, Dr Monique Faleafa. “For the people we have lost to this taniwha called suicide, we all pray and grieve with their families. They are in our thoughts and prayers and now they must be in all our actions”.

Many New Zealanders will know at least one person represented in today’s numbers. We send our awhi and aroha (love and support) to all those grieving today. We encourage you to check in on those who have lost a loved one to suicide as the release of statistics can be painful. It can also be a difficult day for those who are currently feeling suicidal, whose feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness can feel stronger when they hear about these numbers.   

“We know many things that need to happen to prevent suicide – on an individual level and on a community level,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “Thousands of suicides are prevented every year. As a country we need to be better at learning from these experiences and working to ensure every single New Zealander has the support they need to look after themselves and the ones they love when times are tough.”

Suicide is arguably the most devastating public health issue New Zealand faces, but it is preventable.

In response to the Government’s Inquiry into Mental Health and Addictions Oranga Tāngata, Oranga Whānau, TRO, Le Va and the MHF partnered with other individuals and organisations on a submission called Five Key Solutions to Suicide Prevention in New Zealand. The solutions outlined are achievable and should be urgently actioned. The Government is already working on many of the suggestions in the submission.

We’re also encouraged to see work taking place to address some of the social determinants of suicide including poverty, violence and the legacy of colonisation. 

Many New Zealanders will be wondering today why, after a few years of sustained conversation and increased awareness of mental health, our suicide rates are not decreasing.

“Change does take time, but there are things we can all be doing now to prevent suicide in our whānau and communities. We cannot and must not stop talking about how to prevent suicide, Dr Faleafa says.

TRO, Le Va and the MHF are aware of tireless work happening every day around Aotearoa to prevent suicide.

“Everyday heroes around the motu have dedicated their lives toward preventing suicide,” Dr Baker says. “There are so many people doing the mahi on a grassroots-level to turn these numbers around. We have to join these efforts and keep the light burning – there is hope, we can and will prevent suicide in Aotearoa.”

While the number of suspected suicides released today is the highest recorded, the suicide rate (the number of people who die by suicide per 100,000 people in New Zealand) is still not as high as it was at its peak in the late 1990s.

“New Zealand came together to really address suicide when we faced our highest suicide rates in the 1990s,” Mr Robinson says. “We can do it again.”

Research suggests that for every person who dies by suicide, more than 200 will seriously consider it but ultimately find a way through.

It’s time to talk to those survivors and really learn from them. What helped them to recover? How did they rebuild lives worth living? Some of the answers to the crisis we’re facing can be found by truly listening to people with lived experience and allowing them to guide us toward a brighter future. 

Tackling suicide takes the co-ordinated effort of the whole community and all of government. We know countries who are making a difference in their suicide numbers have a strategy – a plan for how to pull efforts together to make a real impact. We are pleased the government is working on such a strategy for Aotearoa. We will do all we can to work together to end suicide.

We are absolutely committed to working together to build an Aotearoa where everyone feels a sense of belonging, purpose, hope and optimism, one where we all have lives worth living.

ENDS

For further information or comment contact:
Mark Wilson
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
021 998 949

About us:

About Te Rau Ora:
Te Au (National Māori Suicide Prevention Centre) is a unit of Te Rau Ora. teaumaori.com

Te Rau Ora is the National Centre for Māori Health, Māori Workforce Development and Excellence, with a primary mission to strengthen the Māori workforce in order to advance the health of Māori and contribute to Māori wellbeing.

About Le Va:
Le Va is a national not for profit organisation focused on supporting Pasifika families and communities to unleash their full potential. Le Va does this by providing evidence-informed and culturally relevant resources, training, education and tools carefully tailored with solutions that meet the unique needs of the communities we serve. Their integrated portfolios span mental health, suicide prevention, addictions, disability support services, public health, violence prevention, and cultural competency programmes. www.leva.co.nz

About the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand:
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand works towards creating a society where all people can flourish and experience positive mental wellbeing. Suicide prevention is a core focus of our work, which includes working with communities and professionals to support safe and effective suicide prevention activities, create support and social inclusion for people experiencing distress, and develop positive mental health and wellbeing. www.mentalhealth.org.nz

Suicide prevention resources: