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Suicide Mortality Review Committee responds to increase in annual suicide figures

Suicide Mortality Review Committee
24 August 2018

Responding to provisional annual suicide figures for 2017/18, the Suicide Mortality Review Committee (SuMRC) has called on all sectors and communities to work better together to reduce suicide deaths in New Zealand.

The provisional figures, released today by the Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall, show 668 people died by suicide in 2017/18, an increase on the previous year.

The provisional suicide rate (deaths per 100,000 people) is 13.67.

SuMRC Chair Professor Rob Kydd acknowledged those who have died and recognised the hurt caused to their loved ones.

‘We understand that for those bereaved by suicide it will be hard to see your loved one as a statistic, but we need accurate estimates of suicide deaths to help us find out which prevention strategies are most effective.

‘Today’s figures represent unacceptably tragic losses, and we are working on better understanding the numbers and the lives of the people behind them.

‘Suicide in New Zealand remains a complex problem – there is no single cause and there will be no single solution. We must work more closely together across all sectors and communities; it is not just a health issue.

‘We are rightly concerned when hearing of anyone’s death by suicide, but we must remember that there are many people with depression who continue to live well, and that many of those who do die by suicide have not had depression or mental illness.’

With suicide rates remaining disproportionately high among Māori and Pacific peoples, Professor Kydd said firm action must be taken to address the impacts of colonisation and social disadvantage, which continues to drive inequities in access to health care and health outcomes.

‘This includes recognising the importance of cultural identity, connectedness, whānau and te reo Māori.’

While the SuMRC is concerned by the lack of progress in reducing the number of suicides, Professor Kydd said there is good work happening across the country.

‘In communities, agencies and within whānau, people are working passionately to drive the changes needed to prevent deaths from suicide. This includes those who support family, friends and whānau after a suicide of a loved one.

‘While many are already working hard to save lives, making these changes at a national level takes time.

‘We want to encourage those who have survived suicidal thoughts to talk about what helped them get through and share this with others to support them to survive and flourish.’

A report by the SuMRC, due out in December 2018, will look at the effectiveness of some suicide prevention programmes, among other things.

‘The SuMRC is committed to more accurate and meaningful understanding and reporting so we can identify where interventions will be effective and sustainable,’ said Professor Kydd. ‘We will investigate where and what things are working well and identify where there continue to be consistent gaps in prevention.

‘We are also confident the government inquiry into mental health and addiction, having heard from many individuals and whānau affected by suicide, will lead to better mental, emotional and physical outcomes for the people of New Zealand.’

We know that some people reading this may find the content disturbing or it may raise some personal issues for you.

If you need immediate help, please call:

  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (mental health, depression, and anxiety counselling)
  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 | 0508 TAUTOKO; 12 noon to 12 midnight (those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else).

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