24 Apr 2012

Suicide rate lower but much more to do, says minister

9:43 pm on 24 April 2012

The Associate Minister of Health says the most recent suicide figures show fewer people are killing themselves.

The suicide and self-harm hospitalisation data for 2009 - the most recent yearly statistics available - shows New Zealand's suicide rate that year was 25.5% below the peak rate in 1998.

Peter Dunne says youth suicides have declined even further, down by 36.8% since 1995.

Mr Dunne says while New Zealand is clearly making progress in reducing the suicide rate, there is still much to do because of the harm and anguish suicide causes for families and communities.

New Zealand's male youth suicide rate is still the highest in the OECD - even though it has fallen, he says.

The 2009 figures were investigated by Coroners - a process that can take up to two years.

Mr Dunne says new coronial and information-sharing processes between Coroners' offices and the Ministry of Health means future data will be publicly available sooner.

The Government is reviewing the national suicide prevention plan and Mr Dunne hopes to have it finalised by the end of this year.

The Mental Health Foundation says the most recent suicide data shows there is still a lot of work to do to bring down the toll. Chief executive Judi Clements says suicide prevention needs to include the underlying risk factors, such as unemployment and social dislocation.

The head of a suicide prevention programme targeting Maori says the latest data shows Maori are missing out on help.

According to the 2009 figures, the death rate for Maori was 23% higher than that for non-Maori.

Michael Naera from Rotorua-based suicide prevention programme, Kia Piki Te Ora, believes the rates could be even higher, judging by increasing demand for his service.

More government funding is needed to provide services specifically for Maori, he says.