9 Feb 2016

Mental health matters

11:18 am on 9 February 2016

Mental health is something we report on often at The Wireless.


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Photo: Illustration: 123rf

Depression, anxiety, and isolation are issues that many people deal with, especially in their twenties.

This week we’ll be running stories, both new and from our archives, about experiences of dealing with mental health issues and the state of mental health services in New Zealand. You can find all the stories in our new Mental Health section.

New Zealand’s suicide rate remains high, despite more open conversation happening about the issues that lead to someone wanting to take their own life.

The country’s suicide rate last year rose for the first time in four years, with 564 taking their own lives - the highest number since records started in 2007. People in their early 20s made up the largest portion, with 61 deaths.

According to the Office of the Director of Mental Health’s most recent annual report, suicide accounts for a third of all deaths in those aged 15-24 and New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is the highest in the OECD.

And Maori continue to be disproportionately represented in New Zealand’s suicide statistics, with 93 deaths last year.

Both patients and health workers have told us the system appears to be under strain due to high demand and not enough funding, though Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says mental health and addiction services budgets have been increased by $300 million since 2008.

Even if the system isn’t working, a simple personal connection can make a difference.

In an interview about the suicide rate last year, the Mental Health Foundation’s Moira Clunie said:

"If you're worried about someone, asking them about suicide will not increase their risk, but ignoring their distress can. For a person who is struggling, having a chance to talk to someone who will listen without judgement can be a great relief."

Jazz Sutton, a suicide survivor, told us exactly what a difference the chance to talk to someone can make.

“On the way to the hospital to be seen for x-rays and stuff the orderly decided to take me outside for a cigarette break,” she said.

“He just spoke to me really candidly, like a friend he’d always had, and really reiterated how awesome it was that I was here, in that very moment, doing nothing. Just the fact I was there. The words have never gone away for me and his face is in my memory every day.

“People think ‘how can one person make a difference?’ But that one orderly - who hadn’t necessarily had any suicide prevention training - just having his support and knowing someone cared was enough to give me that spark of hope to keep going.”

The message that Suzana Harris, an advocate for better mental health services, gave us when she featured in our Outspoken series last year echoes Jazz’s story.

Better mental health starts with simply being kind to one another, she said.

“Take the time to get to know someone and to believe in that person.”

There will be more coverage of mental health issues on The Wireless throughout 2016.

We don’t want this to be another record year for New Zealand.


If you need to talk to someone about your own mental health, try these helplines. If it is an emergency, call 111.

Lifeline - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Healthline - 0800 611 116

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz