15 Jun 2017

NZ suicide rates an 'avoidable situation'

9:02 pm on 15 June 2017

Youth suicide is an avoidable reality in New Zealand, but it is not being adequately tackled, mental health experts say.

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Photo: 123RF

A UNICEF report released today said New Zealand had the worst rate in the world at 15.6 per 100,000 people in the designated age bracket (15-19).

The rate was substantially higher than the next worst countries, Lithuania, Finland, Chile and Ireland, and more than eight times worse than the best performing countries, Italy and Portugal.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the high youth suicide rate made him sad, angry and frustrated.

"This an avoidable situation but sadly it has been reality for far too long and we are not getting to grips with suicide among our young people."

He said one way to try to fix the problem would be to set a specific target for suicide reduction, as New Zealand does for the road toll.

"We can provide immediate crisis support," he added.

"There are ways that we can have emergency response teams when we start to see clusters of suicides occurring.

"We can build much more resilience and well being and mental; health awareness into schools and start actively working to make that happen."

The rate is twice as high as the US youth suicide rate and almost five times worse than in Britain.

UNICEF New Zealand national advocacy manager Prudence Stone told Checkpoint with John Campbell the organisation had been telling successive governments they needed a better strategy for the welfare of children.

Otago University academic Sue Bagshaw works with vulnerable young people and said the problem of suicide had varying causes, many of them economic.

"One of the biggest ones is marginalisation of young people in terms of casual labour, low wages no jobs," Dr Bagshaw said.

"There is also a big issue in terms of our high rate of child abuse.

"All of those things are big factors that can bring lack of hope."

Read UNICEF's full report: 'Building the Future Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries' (PDF, 1MB)

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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