18 Oct 2016

More resources needed to curb high Māori suicide rates

9:31 pm on 18 October 2016

The suicide rate among Māori is nearly twice that of any other ethnicity and a researcher says disconnection from culture is a factor.

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Disconnection from identity Photo: 123RF

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall has released suicides numbers for the last year, which showed the Māori suicide rate of 22 per 100,000 people was nearly double that of any other ethnic group.

The figures showed 129 Māori took their own lives in the 12 months to last June.

Suicide prevention researcher Nicole Coupe said those who were disconnected from their identity were at higher risk of suicide.

"There's lots of underlying reasons why someone takes their life, but for Māori [it can be] the disconnection to culture, not having a secure identity and not being able to access services in a timely manner," Dr Coupe said.

"This doesn't just mean Māori, it's everybody. If they are secure in their identity, they identify with their own ethnicity, they're connected to their community, they know their whakapapa and are connected to their family ... you're much less likely to harm yourself."

She said socio-economic factors also had a huge influence on suicide rates.

"Lack of education means poor income, which means lack of employment, which means I'm disconnected or unable to be connected to my whānau, therefore I'm going to be insecure in my identity.

"Then a small thing like breaking up with your girlfriend or boyfriend pops you over because, what's the point, everything else in life is not that great."

Dr Coupe said the fact that the Māori population was disproportionately younger compared to other ethnicities was also reflected in the suicide figures.

"What's happened is a few years ago it used to be in the 16-24 age group. That same cohort is now in their 20s, late 20s. You've got the same disenfranchised group going through ages that are being affected."

More resources needed

There were a number of programmes targeted at reducing Māori suicide rates but it was not enough compared to resources put into other areas, Dr Coupe said.

"There is work [being done], I wouldn't say it's significant or enough. You're only talking about a couple of million dollars a year going directly into Māori suicide.

"When you think about the number of road deaths a year, which has hundreds of millions of dollars put into preventing road deaths. And yet you've got a couple of million dollars going into suicide in New Zealand."

The suicide rate among Māori women and girls had gone up slightly over the past year, while for men and boys it had remained static.

"Our females are starting to use more lethal methods, so they're more likely to pass away from suicide, which is what males have tended to use, which is why we've usually had a 75 to 25 percent ratio", she said.

"That's slowly changing."

Dr Coupe said there were a number of resources available and communities needed to make themselves aware of these so they could provide support when it was needed.

"What we need is communities putting together their own support plans, getting all the right services in place and activated, getting support for what's already there," she said.

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.