3 Sep 2012

Suicide rate slightly lower

7:02 pm on 3 September 2012

New figures show 547 people committed suicide in the past year, 11 fewer than the previous year.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean made public the provisional suicide statistics at the Wellington District Court on Monday.

Judge MacLean says though there were fewer self-inflicted deaths in the year to June, the number has remained stubbornly static over the past five years.

He says the most concerning statistic is an increase in deaths in the 15- to 19-year-old age group, from 56 to 80 in the past year.

"For parents of teenagers, a better awareness of almost what the warning signs are from seeing what Coroners are saying in selected cases may well help."

Of all ethnic groups, Maori still have the highest rate of suicide, at 132 in the past year, or 23 in every 100,000.

Auckland recorded the most suicides, but deaths increased in Christchurch - from 67 to 81.

Judge MacLean says that reflects a drop in suicides post-earthquake and the figures are in line with what has been observed overseas following natural disasters.

One child aged between five and nine years old committed suicide in the past year.

The Prime Minister says the country needs to get better at helping young people suffering from mental illness and describes the newest figures as damning.

John Key says he worries a lot about the prominence of Maori boys and Pacific youth in suicide statistics and more must be done to help affected young people.

Mr Key says although the Government already has a $62 million Youth Mental Health plan, he is not sure it will plug every gap.