UNICEF report an indictment
reporting doesn't work (2007)
Teen suicides 'a community
Misconceptions a concern
Suicide rate lowest since 1985 (2005)
Key findings of the
2001 suicide statistics
suicide figures declining (2000)
More News coverage and comment
Suicide statistics ‘stable’
Maori levels a concern (2007)
health minister Jim Anderton, says the suicide situation over recent years,
based on statistics released in November 2007, has “remained stable”
although the latest two year old figures were slightly higher than those for
And the number of Maori ending their lives prematurely has continued to
increase at a higher rate than the national average; 17.9 percent as
compared to 13.2 percent. The number of hospitalisations for self harm
across all New Zealanders also showed a significant increase, with more
young women admitted than males.
2003-2005 a rate of 13.2 people in every 100,000 died by suicide compared
to13.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 2002-2004, a decrease of about 19
percent from the peak of 16.3 deaths per 100,000 in 1996-1998.
statistics at the 5th National Suicide Prevention Symposium in Wellington,
Anderton said while the number of deaths by suicide had dropped since the
peak of the late 1990s there was no room for complacency. “Any suicide
remains a serious concern and is a tragedy for family and friends. In 2005,
502 people died by suicide. Those who had particularly high rates were those
aged between 15 and 44, along with Mâori and those living in the most
deprived areas of New Zealand. Men also had higher rates than women – for
every three male suicides there was one female suicide’’.
2005-2006 data shows that the rate of suicide is higher for Mâori (17.9 per
100,000) than non-Mâori (12.0 per 100,000), a disparity that had increased
over the past nine years. While the number was down for 2005 the over rate
showed a 5.2 percent increase from 2002-2004 to 2003-2005.
The number of
hospitalisations for intentional self harm had also increased. In 2006 there
were 5400 hospitalisations (151.7 hospitalisations per 100,000 people), a
7.5 percent increase on the previous year when there were 4992
“What we do
know is more females are admitted to hospital for self-harm than males – in
2006 there were two females admitted for every male. Mâori are nearly 1.5
times more likely to be admitted than non-Mâori and those who self-harm tend
to be aged between 15 and 24,’’ said Anderton.
Misconceptions a concern
Excerpts from Mental Health Foundation Newsletter 1997 - 2008
Prevention Information New Zealand (SPINZ) director Merryn Statham, in an
interview in the Mental Health Foundation Summer 2007-2008 newsletter
are a couple of misconceptions around suicide and suicide prevention.
The first is that suicide is the one final act of self-destruction.
Suicide is a very complex issue and is most often the culmination of a
long pathway of experiences, situations and distress. Therefore there
are opportunities all along this pathway to reduce the risk of suicide.
Research has identified common risk factors that contribute to suicide.
Knowing what these risk factors are and recognising and responding
appropriately to warning signs can help to reduce suicide and suicide
The other common misconception is that suicide can be treated in the
same way as many other public health issues and would be reduced through
high profile awareness raising activities.
This can be problematic in that well meaning people can promote and
lobby for overly simplistic suicide prevention approaches. 'Should we
talk about suicide?' has become a distraction from the real question -
'How should we talk about suicide?'
individual who feeling suicidal she said, it is very important they talk to
someone who can help them. The same goes for those who are feeling bereaved
became of the suicide of someone close to them. It helps to talk about that
experience with others who have shared it and hear how others have learned
to live with this loss. However, she says, the risks of discussing suicide
in large groups of people, where there is no way of knowing how vulnerable
individual audience members may be, are well documented. She claims those
having regular thoughts of suicide, could be placed at increased risk
through the idea that taking your life is a common and appropriate response
to extreme distress. This is called 'normalising' and is something that is
not well understood by those advocating for broad based awareness raising
says it important for people to know that most suicides are preventable. The
work of SPINZ in providing targeted suicide prevention information to a wide
variety of audiences across is important. The organisation helps link
people, agencies and relevant information together, for a more cohesive and
supported approach to this work.
who work with people at risk of suicide, having information that identifies
the agreed best practice standards is crucial. it is important those who
provide funding for suicide prevention programmes have information to know
they are funding something that is proven to be effective. And she says, it
is important those who are caring for some one who has made a suicide
attempt, to have information about how best to do that.”
working on it?
central government agencies with a responsibility to address suicide
prevention: the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development,New
Zealand Police, Accident Compensation Commission, The Department of
Corrections, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Department of
Kokiri, the Ministry of Youth Development, Ministry of Women's Affairs,
Pacific Island Affairs and Child Youth and Family Services also contribute
under these umbrella ministries.
Prevention Strategy 2006 - 2016
Promote mental health and wellbeing and prevent mental health problems.
Goal two: Improve the care of people who are experiencing mental
disorders associated with suicidal behaviour.
Goal three: Improve the care of people who make non-fatal suicide
Goal four: Reduce access to means of suicide.
Goal five: Promote the safe reporting and portrayal of suicidal
behaviour b the media.
Goal six: Support families/whanau, friend and others affected by a
suicide of suicide attempt.
Goal seven: Expand the evidence about rates, causes and effective
UNICEF report an indictment
Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries (February 2007), paints a
Zealand as last out of 25 OECD countries in its record for keeping children
safe, with the third highest child homicide rate for children aged up to 14.
The country was also bottom of the ranking for deaths from accidents and
injuries per 100,000 under-19-year-olds.
“The fact is that substantiated child abuse cases have more than doubled
since 2000 – from 6000 to 13,000 last year. In addition to that, Child,
Youth and Family expect over 70,000 notifications this year, up from 28,000
in 1999-00,” said National Party Welfare spokesperson Judith Collins.
“These figures are a disgrace and show New Zealand up in a dim light…”
Zealand appeared in the bottom third of the OECD in several other areas,
including: Overall health and safety of children, health at age one and
rates of immunization, percentage of teenagers in full or part-time
education (worst ranking), teenage pregnancies (24th), Children living in a
family without a working parent or in a household earning less than half the
median wage (18th). Sharing a main meal with the family several times a week
(24th), Children whose parents spend time talking to them several times a
The six factors that
measured the well-being of children in the report were material well-being,
health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviour and
risks, and young people's subjective sense of well-being.
The report covered
countries ranging from wealthy nations such as the United States to
economically poorer industrialised countries such as Poland and the Czech
Child advocates say that
while New Zealand's poor international reputation for child welfare,
particularly child deaths, is nothing new, the latest report is a damning
indictment of the country's disregard for children's safety and well-being.
Unicef New Zealand
advocacy manager David Kenkel said the report raised a huge question mark
over why this country consistently ranked so poorly.
"There are countries out
there with far fewer resources than us but they are doing much better than
we are," he said.
He hoped the latest
upsetting statistics would cause the Government, as well as New Zealanders,
to examine their attitude and behaviour towards children. "There's a great
gap between the myth of the Kiwi childhood and the reality."
Shocking teen-death rate, Kim Thomas, The Press, 15 February, 2007, NZPA
Statistics released by the
Wellington Coroner's office show young people are taking their lives at
increasingly earlier ages.
Inquests included the unrelated but apparently self-inflicted
deaths of four girls aged between 13 and 15 years and a 16-year-old boy in
Every death without known
cause, unnatural, due to suicide or violence must be reported to police, who
investigate the causes and circumstances and report to the coroner. In his
Wellington Coroner Garry Evans said the increasingly younger age at which
some young people were taking their lives was a matter of real concern to
"It is at once a community
tragedy and a community problem. It is important that the community knows
what is going on." There were 33 apparent suicides in the Wellington
district in 2006. Porirua accounted for 13 of the deaths. District-wide, the
highest number of deaths were in the under-25 age group. Of the 12 women who
apparently took their lives, four were aged 15 or under.
There were 199 suicides in
the Wellington district from 2001 to 2005. The coroner's data shows a
substantial drop in the suicide rate in the past two years. Initially, rates
rose slowly from 41 per annum in 2001 to 46 in 2004. Then in 2005, the
number of suicide deaths plummeted to 27, before rising to 33 apparent
suicides in 2006.
It was important that young
people with drug, social, personality or mental health problems (especially
depression) be seen by their family GPs as soon as possible. Dr Davis said
anti-depressant medication was now more effective, which might explain the
lower rates of suicide.
suicide reporting doesn't work
Dominion Post, 07 June 2006
Warwick Holmes wants restrictions lifted on the reporting of suicide, to
help address New Zealand's "world record rate of self-inflicted deaths". He
called for the change during a hearing in which four inquests out of the six
he presided over were related to self-inflicted deaths.
The "hush-hush" approach to reporting suicide was not
working, he said. "We hold a world record for the amount of self-inflicted
harm done by males between the ages of 15 and 24." he said. "We have a
genuine problem in New Zealand and the more attention brought to it will
help address this problem."
justice and electoral select committee has rejected calls to lift
restrictions on what news media can report. Fears have been raised from
education and mental health officials that publicity about suicide causes
believes restrictions on reporting were not working. "We've got legislation
saying `Don't talk about it' and, from my position, I have a problem
believing the legislation is doing anything to solve the problem…There is no
doubt the problem is chronic. Coroners around the countryside are dealing
with this on an almost-daily basis. On the one hand we hush it all up but
all we do is create a dilemma.”
Holmes is the lack of progress being made with the amount of self-inflicted
deaths of young men.
rate lowest since 1985
Dewes, Dominion Post, 07 April 2005
In 2005 it was reported that New Zealand suicide rates had dropped the
lowest rate since 1985 but were still among the leading causes of death
among young people, eclipsing even the road toll.
The figures for 2002 released in April 2005 sowed that 460 people died by
suicide, compared with 405 who died on the roads that year. The number of
suicides compared with 507 in 2001 and 458 in 2000.
Health Minister Jim Anderton was placing his hope in reducing the numbers an
all-age suicide strategy to replace the current focus on youth suicide. The
suicide rate for males, 16.6 per 100,000 people, was more than three times
the rate for females, mostly because males chose more "direct" suicide
methods. Women were twice as likely to survive a suicide attempt.
Zealand's overall suicide rate of 10.7 per 100,000 people was the sixth
highest among OECD countries with comparable data. New Zealand had a far
higher suicide rate for females aged 15 to 24, at 11 per 100,000, than those
other OECD countries.
Anderton, whose daughter Philippa killed herself in 1993, lamented the time
it took for the figures to come to light, but hoped a review of the Coroners
Act and the development of an online database for coroners, doctors and
police to enable data to be captured immediately would quicken the process.
Prevention Information New Zealand co-director Merryn Statham said
broadening the prevention focus away from youths was welcome. The youth
focus had created an inflated perception of youth suicides, which had the
harmful effect of "normalising" suicide among youth.
media have come under fire for ignoring guidelines on reporting suicides.
A report by
Jim Tully and Nadia Elsaka of Canterbury University's school of political
science and communications, said media bosses strongly oppose restrictions
on reporting suicides and the news media largely ignore Health Ministry
guidelines designed to prevent copycat behaviour.
there was a need for consultation to create new guidelines suitable to
everyone. Anderton however believed media generally did a good job, but
called on journalists to use integrity. He referred to the suicide of
Crowded House drummer Paul Hester in Melbourne after which some media
reported details of how he killed himself.
"I believe the
issue of prevention of suicide copycat behaviour is important enough to
maintain a very vigorous approach to reporting suicide."
down but still concern
are declining but the rate is still too high, says the Ministry of Health.
1999 suicide statistics for all ages released in April 2002, show 514 people
died by suicide in 1999 compared with 577 in 1998 and 561 in 1997. The 1999
total is the lowest since 1994 (512), ministry spokeswoman Maria cotter said.
encouraging to know these rates can come down but the figures are still too
high,” she said.
suicide is a personal tragedy and devastates family and friends, colleagues and
deaths have reduced among both Maori and non-Maori. The overall rate of suicide
among Maori was the same as for non-Maori in 1999. But youth suicide rates are
still significantly higher among Maori than non-Maori she said. Ms Cotter said
preventing suicide was a priority under the New Zealand health strategy.
said the Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy worked to reduce youth suicide with a
specific focus on preventing suicide among Maori youth. This strategy launched
in 1968 is now led by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and involves a number of
Key findings of the
2001 suicide statistics:
The total number of suicides for 2001 was 499, up from 458 in 2000 but
down from 516 in 1999 and 577 in 1998.
Males continued to have a higher suicide death rate than females in
2001, with a rate of 18.3 compared to 5.5 per 100,000 population.
Between 2000 and 2001 the suicide rate decreased for males (18.7 to 18.3
per 100,000 population) and increased for females (4.0 to 5.5 per
The total rate of youth suicide (15-24 years) increased with 20.0 deaths
per 100,000 population in 2001 compared with 18.1 per 100,000 population
2001 the all-ages sex ratio for suicide was 3.3 male suicides to every
female suicide. The youth suicide (15-24 years) was 3.7 male suicides to
every female suicide.
New Zealand has the highest male youth suicide rate (15-24 years) and
second highest female youth suicide rate compared to other Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
Mäori continue to have a higher suicide rate than non- Mäori. The 2001
suicide rates for Mäori males and females (20.7 and 6.8 per 100,000
population) were higher than for non-Mäori males and females (17.7 and
4.9 per 100,000 population).
Youth (15-24 years) have a much higher rate of hospitalisation rate for
intentional self-harm in 2002 (186.5 cases per 100,000) than the total
population (85.5 cases).
More females are
hospitalised for self-inflicted harm than males with a ratio in 2001 of 2.1
female hospitalisations to every male hospitalisation.
- A total of 499 people died by
suicide, compared with 458 in 2000 and 516 in 1999.
- In 2001, 382 males died by
suicide, compared with 375 in 2000 and 385 in 1999.
- In 2001, 117 females died by
suicide, compared with 83 in 2000 and 131 in 1999.
- In 2001, people aged 20–24
years had the highest age-specific suicide rate (25.3 deaths per 100,000
population) followed by people aged 25–29 years (21.7 deaths per 100,000
population) and people aged 30–34 years (21.2 deaths per 100,000
- Among males, those aged 20–24
years had the highest age-specific suicide rate (42.8 deaths per 100,000
population) followed by those aged 30–34 years (35.8 deaths per 100,000
population) and those aged 40–44 years (34.4 deaths per 100,000
- Among females, 80–84-year-olds
(15.3 per 100,000), 25–29-year-olds (12.8 per 100,000 population) and
15–19-year-olds (9.5 per 100,000 population) had the highest rates
Figure 3 (below): Suicide rates by age group and sex,
2001. (Source: NZHIS)
Note: The high suicide rates in the older age groups are influenced by the
smaller population sizes in those age groups. Therefore, relatively smaller
numbers of suicide deaths produce higher suicide death rates than in some of
the younger age groups.
Provisional Youth Suicide Figures for 2000
(as at May 2003)
Date of publication: May 2003
More detailled report as at May 2003
- In 2000, the total number of suicides was 458,
down from 516 in 1999 and 577 in 1998. This is the lowest total number
since 1986 (414) and the lowest rate since 1985.
- Total suicide deaths have reduced among both
males and females in the last two years. In 2000, the female rate was
the lowest since 1961.
- In 2000, both the 45-64 year age group and the 65
and over age group recorded the lowest rates since 1948.
- In 2000, a total of 96 young people aged 15-24
years died by suicide, compared with 120 in 1999 and 140 in 1998. Young
people still have high rates of suicide but the highest rate is now in
the 25-29 year age group.
- Suicide deaths have reduced in non-Mäori, but
have remained almost the same in Maori. In 2000, the rate of suicide in
Maori was 13.1 per 100,000 compared with 10.7 per 100,000 in non-Maori.
- The hospitalisation rate for intentional
self-harm in 2000/2001 was 129.2 per 100,000.
- The definition of intentional self-harm has been
extended to include cases not previously included so should not be
directly compared with previous years. Youth (15-24 years) had the
highest hospitalisation rates in 2000/2001 (282.4 per 100,000).
- There is some variation in regional suicide rates
for the total population but no pattern.
- The New Zealand Health Strategy has identified
reducing suicide and suicide attempt across all ages as a priority
- Suicide prevention requires a range of
interventions across a number of settings and the co-operation of
Government, service providers, communities and families.
suicide figures declining (2000)
15 October 2002
Jim Anderton, Associate Minister of Health today
released the youth suicide figures for the year 2000. The latest figures
are the lowest since 1986 for both the number and rate of suicide amongst
"The recent decline in youth suicide rates is
very encouraging. It suggests that the New Zealand Youth Suicide
Prevention Strategy and the wide range of initiatives that are part of the
Strategy are having a positive effect. Sadly though, there is still no
cause for complacency or celebration because 96 young people still took
their lives that year," said Jim Anderton.
Youth suicide is a complex issue and is caused by a
range of factors so it is difficult to precisely determine the
effectiveness of youth suicide initiatives.
"Although we cannot yet claim with total
confidence that the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy,
released in 1998, has been effective, the signs are positive that it is
making a difference. The decline in numbers is definitely
significant," Jim Anderton said.
The Strategy, led by the Ministry of Youth Affairs
involves a wide range of actions aimed at reducing youth suicide, with a
specific focus on addressing suicide among taitamariki (Maori youth). Many
of the initiatives focus on the total population, not just young people.
Debbie Edwards, National Co-ordinator - Youth
Suicide Prevention, Youth Affairs, said, "The work involves several
Government agencies implementing initiatives across a range of sectors,
and dozens of community organisations and services.
"There has been a lot of effort and resource
put into preventing youth suicide by the government and we are starting to
see some really encouraging results."
The range of government initiatives focus on things
like supporting the healthy development of young people, providing
additional support for young people who are at risk (like mental health
services), supporting Maori development, and providing better information
for young people, families and people who work with young people.
Ms Edwards said, "The research shows that about
90 per cent of young people who die by suicide have some kind of mental
illness, such as depression or have substance abuse problems. In New
Zealand, we’ve now got more and better mental health services for young
people than we used to have – the number of staff working full-time in
child and youth mental health services grew from 350 to 679 between 1988
and 2001. This is a great improvement, and has probably contributed to the
decline, but we need to keep up the momentum towards higher quality mental
health and drug abuse services."
In the year 2000 the total number of suicides among
New Zealanders aged 15-24 years was 96 (18.1 per 100,000 young people),
down from 120 in 1999 and 140 in 1998. This is the lowest total number and
rate since 1986 when there were 91 suicides (15.6 per 100,000 young
The 2000 statistics show a large drop in the number
of female suicide deaths: 15 (5.8 per 100,000) in 2000 which is down from
37 (14.2 per 100 000) in 1999. Male suicide deaths and rates have
unfortunately changed little between 1999 and 2000. In 2000 there were 81
deaths (29.9 per 100,000), down slightly from 83 (30.6 per 100,000) in
Youth suicide deaths have reduced among both Mäori
and Non-Mäori females. The Mäori female rate was 7.4 per 100,000, down
from 18.7 in 1999, while the Non-Mäori female rate was 5.4, down from
13.1 in 1999.
In 2000, the rate of suicide among Mäori was 25.7
per 100 000, and 16.2 per 100,000 in non-Mäori. Young males continue to
experience a high rate of suicide with a Mäori rate of 43.5 in 2000 (42.4
in 1999), and a Non-Mäori rate of 26.4 in 2000 (27.7 in 1999).
"Every suicide is traumatic with far-reaching
effects. While the decrease in suicide is good news, we must all try to
create an environment where young people feel valued and supported, and
where they can get help when they need it.
"Suicide is not only an issue for Youth Affairs
and the health system, it's an issue for New Zealand society. Although
there is no one cause and no single way to address the issue, Government
and the community need to continue working together to further reduce the
incidence," said Jim Anderton.
Ms Edwards agrees. "Youth Affairs is committed
to furthering youth suicide prevention work across the government, and to
working alongside community groups to ensure their initiatives are safe,
effective and evidence-based."
Debbie Edwards, National Co-ordinator – Youth Suicide Prevention
Ministry of Youth Affairs, 04 914 4863, 025 226 7547
Sam Fisher [Anderton press secretary] 021 714 209, 04 471 9289