CW: Suicide and mental distress

Suspected suicides rates are the lowest they have been in the past 13 years, new Ministry of Health data shows.

In the last year to June there were 538 suspected suicides in Aotearoa which is 14.5% lower than the average over the past 13 years.

The highest rate was in 2018/19, with 12.9 suspected suicides for every 100,000 people in the country - compared to 10.2 this year.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Shaun Robinson said our response to the pandemic has played a large role in this drop.

“[Throughout the pandemic] there has been unprecedented support and encouragement from the community to do things that are good for our wellbeing. To stay connected, eat well, do some exercise, reach out to one another, and be aware of our mental health.”

Robinson said these results show the key to addressing suicide in Aotearoa is by cultivating communities where people feel they belong, connect with others and can reach out to each other when they need help.

“That is what prevents suicides, not millions on dollars on hospital wards and training counsellors. Those are needed but the things that are already working are promoting ordinary people in the community to care for one another.”

Māori, men and young people overrepresented in suicide rates

While overall suicides are down, there are still groups that are overrepresented.

In the last year Māori men were the most likely people to take their own lives, at a rate of 23.9 deaths per 100,000 people - 1.4 times higher than non-Māori men.

Men were more likely to die by suicide than women overall, representing three quarters of suspected suicides in the last year (The Ministry of Health website only includes data on men and women).

And people aged 20 to 24 had the highest rates of suicide, with 21.4 per 100,000 people.

Robinson said that while these three groups have unique challenges, he believes the answer to address all of them is tailoring a community-focussed approach to each.

“When I was in my thirties I was highly suicidal and tried to take my own life and it failed,” he said.

“One of the reasons I am still alive is that the day after [my suicide attempt], a friend dropped by to say hi and saw I wasn't in a good way and expressed concern. Just knowing there was someone I was connected to and was concerned about me was enough to have me take a few steps back.”

Robinson said he hoped politicians connected the dots between the dropping suicide rates over the past several years and the emphasis on community support and connection.

“Moving out of Covid the risk is that funding for these activities will dry up just as we are doing the right things.”

Where to get help:

  • 1737: The nationwide, 24/7 mental health support line. Call or text 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor.
  • Suicide Crisis Line: Free call 0508 TAUTOKO or 0508 828 865. Nationwide 24/7 support line operated by experienced counsellors with advanced suicide prevention training. 
  • Youthline: Free call 0800 376 633, free text 234. Nationwide service focused on supporting young people.
  • OUTLine NZ: Freephone 0800 OUTLINE (0800 688 5463). National service that helps LGBTIQ+ New Zealanders access support, information and a sense of community. 

More stories:

98% of trans teens don't regret gender-affirming treatments: study

Advocates have witnessed the positive impact access to these treatments can have.

A question of consent: The final arguments in Wellington sex offences case

Final arguments have been made by the prosecution and defence today.

In My Opinion: NZ should wipe all cannabis possession charges

“In the last year alone, 44% of cannabis convictions were applied to Māori."