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April 30, 2012 | by  | in News |
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Suicide Rates Down

Yet outlook remains grim.

New Zealand’s suicide rates are declining, but young males remain the most at risk, according to a report released by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne last week.

The statistical report, ‘Suicide Facts: Deaths and intentional self-harm hospitalisations 2009’, showed in total 506 people, or 11.2 people per 100,000, committed suicide in New Zealand in 2009, down from 11.8 per 100,000 in 2008.

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

While suicide statistics are improving, the report reveals that the male youth suicide rate in New Zealand is the highest in the OECD.

“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,” Dunne said.

A recent OECD report on suicide statistics highlighted that there were differences in what countries classified as a suicide, impacting the validity of their statistics.

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

“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.

At the time, Prime Minister John Key explained that the package would help to fill “gaps in our current system and [build] on the good work our mental health professionals are already doing in this area.”

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements has stressed the importance of all New Zealanders understanding the role they can play in reducing suicide statistics.

“Although Government action is essential, we can all get involved … It is about strengthening the connections we have with family, whanau, friends and the community,” Clements said.

Some of the most effective protective factors are supportive relationships, belief in a positive future and a strong cultural identity.”

Dunne has expressed concern over the latest suicide data being three years old, which is due to mandatory coroners’ investigations taking up to two years to complete. But he has said that the system for releasing figures is being improved.

“Working with more current data will enable us to better target our efforts in addressing suicide,” he said.

“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.”

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