Dunne: latest stats show suicide being reduced

  • Peter Dunne
Health

Newly released suicide and self-harm hospitalisation data for 2009, the most recent year available, shows New Zealand’s suicide rate is being reduced, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today.

In total, 506 people died by suicide in New Zealand in 2009 – or 11.2 people per 100,000, down from 11.8 in 2008.

“This is 25.5 percent below the peak rate in 1998. Youth suicides have declined even further, down by 36.8 percent since 1995,” Mr Dunne said.

“The declining rate is very encouraging, however, while we are clearly making progress there is still much to do because of the harm and anguish suicide causes for families and communities.

“Preventing suicide is everyone’s responsibility,” Mr Dunne said.

He said a disappointing aspect of the statistics was New Zealand’s male youth suicide rate being the highest in the OECD, even though it has fallen from a high of 44.1 per 100,000 in 1995 to 29 per 100,000 in 2009.

“It is disappointing, but the OECD comparison needs to be taken with considerable caution, especially given that stigma, cultural and social issues in some countries mean there is a real reluctance to report deaths as suicides,” Mr Dunne said.

He said there were also differences in what countries class as a suicide which impacted on their statistics, while different countries were reporting on different time-frames.

“Nonetheless we take each and every such death as a tragedy and the Government is totally committed to addressing suicide,” he said.

"We have a significant youth suicide issue, particularly among young men, and that is why the Government is investing $62 million over four years in the Prime Minister's Youth Mental Health Project announced earlier this month,” he said.

“Depression is a leading risk factor in suicide and this package works across government agencies to develop a collaborative approach.

“We want every young person who needs help to receive it in a way that works for them – and that is why the package will be delivered through schools, health professionals, online and at home.

“We also want parents to know where to turn which is why we've developed a new fund to provide information to parents, families and friends.

"Alongside this package we will be developing a new Suicide Prevention Action Plan this year. This will be a cross-government agency initiative that I will be leading to further tackle the issue of suicide."

The 10 year Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006–2016 and associated four-year Action Plan 2008–2012 form the backbone of Government-led suicide prevention.

The Government will this year develop the next stage four-year Action Plan covering 2013 to 2016.

Mr Dunne said he was also concerned that the figures he was releasing today were up to three years old.

“That is being improved. We expect to be able to release the 2010 figures later this year. Working with more current data will enable us to better target our efforts in addressing suicide.

“As much as possible, we want to know what the problem is; not what the problem was,” he said.

The 2009 figures being released had been investigated by Coroners – a process that can take up to two years.

New coronial and information-sharing processes between Coroners’ offices and the Ministry of Health mean future data will be publicly available sooner.

“Suicide is a complex issue, not least because the circumstances leading up to a suicide are different for every individual and may not be noticed. Some of the most effective prevention methods are strong friendships, healthy and supportive family relationships, and an individual’s belief in a positive future,” Mr Dunne said.

“If you are concerned about a family member or friend, or need support yourself, there are many organisations that can help you.”

The full report can be found at
www.health.govt.nz/publication/suicide-facts-deaths-and-intentional-self-harm-hospitalisations-2009

Resources for support and help for individuals:

Helplines

  • Lifeline 0800 543 354
  • Lifeline’s Suicide helpline 0508 TAUTOKO
  • Youthline 0800 376 633
  • Kidsline 0800 543 754 (weekdays 4-6 pm)
  • What’s Up 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight 7 days, for young people aged 5 to 18)
  • Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
  • Samaritans 0800 826 666 (lower North Island and Upper South Island) provides confidential, non-judgmental emotional support through their telephone helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to people in distress and at risk of dying by suicide.
  • Healthline 0800 611 116

Websites

  • The Lowdown (for young people) www.thelowdown.org.nz or freetext 5626
  • The Depression website www.depression.org.nz provides information about depression and an online depression self-management programme 'The Journal' presented by John Kirwan, which is backed up by online and phone based personalised support services.
  • Samaritans www.samaritans.org.nz

Services

  • Primary care professionals or general practitioners.
  • Community mental health service through the local district health boards (contact details in the white pages or at www.moh.govt.nz/districthealthboards

Support for families and friends

  • Victim Support http://www.victimsupport.org.nz provides support for victims of trauma.
  • Skylight http://www.skylight.org.nz/ provides services to support those facing loss, trauma and grief.

General Information Sources

  • Ministry of Health www.moh.govt.nz/suicideprevention - information about suicide and suicide prevention, facts, and Ministry publications
  • Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand www.spinz.org.nz - the national information service to provide high quality information to promote safe and effective suicide prevention activities.
  • The Mental Health Foundation www.mentalhealth.org.nz provides free information and training, and advocates for policies and services that support people with experience of mental illness, and also their families/whanau and friends.