When Your Head Spins
An on-line resource for youth at risk


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Articles, columns and comment relating to the youth suicide crisis
Things we  thought you needed to know

News Archive
(updated June 2002. Sosad is no longer representing media coverage. See editorial)
  Sobering thoughts     Mental health  millions unspent
  Mental health short by $355m (is this a contradiction?)
  Youth problems   One out of four teens has suicide ideas
  Our teen suicide shame (1984) Interesting to see what was said then.
  Slip in family values blamed for suicide epidemic
  Wasted Youth     Suicides far outnumber road deaths
  From a Project K brochure 1997    Up to us to end pointless deaths
   I need  HELP NOW  

Sobering thoughts

"In a 12-day period from New Yearís Day 1998 10 Aucklanders took their own life Ė eight of them under 30. All but one were male. During the same period in Christchurch one person committed suicide."
New Zealand Herald
20/11/98 20/11/98  

Invercargill Christians intend to "spiritually clean up their city" after a spate of suicide rocked the Southland city. There have been 18 suicides in the past year, half in the last three months. Most victims were men aged between 16 and 40. - Sunday Star Times, November 1998

"Suicide remains epidemic and now equals or exceeds road traffic injury as a cause of injury-related death," - Our Health, our Future, a 444 page report on New Zealand health issues released in February 2000 by the Ministry of Health. The report identifies young males between 15-44 as most at risk.

One New Zealander commits suicide every 16 hours on average - about 510 a year - and researchers say the rate among males is as bad as it was in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

An Auckland School of Medicine study released in January 2000 found there was a suicide every three days from 1989 to 1997 in greater Auckland alone. That compared with three self-inflicted deaths every three days for the rest of the country. The researchers say male suicides rose 119 per cent nationally between 1974 and 1994, most in the 15-24 age group.

In the study of Auckland police and coroners records it was found young men, the unemployed and sickness beneficiaries were disproportionately likely to kill themselves.

Police say that 232 people in Auckland had killed themselves by mid-1998 - compared to a road toll of 99. And what about the overall five-year trend, which shows epidemic rises in young people ending their lives. Itís not just youth either; young men and women in their early 20s and 30s are giving up on life in record numbers.

New Zealand is a nation in despair it seems - our eyes often gaze awkwardly at the ground rather upward to the stars or straight ahead toward a motivating vision. Itís not time to sit back and believe old data. Itís time for positive, preventative action.

One out of four teens
has suicide ideas

By Alison Horwood

Shocking new youth suicide figures show that one in four teenagers has tried or thought about taking his or her own life.

Youth suicides have moved up from between 120 and 130 a year from 1990 to 1993 to 137 in 1994. The latest figures, for 1995, show a leap to 156 suicides and 1310 hospital admissions from failed attempts.

The Injury prevention Research Centre survey of 1500 Auckland and Northland high school students shows that 18 percent had thought of suicide and 7 per cent had attempted it. The remaining 75 per cent had never thought about it.

Based on the 1995 figures, New Zealand has the second highest suicide rate for males aged between 15 and 24 behind Finland. In that age group four males take their lives for every one young female.

This year a National Health Committee research team produced guidelines estimating an average sized secondary school could expect 20 students a year would attempt to take their lives. (edited) - NZ Herald 12/8/97

Mental health short by $355m

Govt fails own targets
WELLINGTON - Annual funding increases of $59 million until 2004 are needed for the Government to meet its own mental health targets, the Mental Health Commission says.

Funding is about 60 per cent of the level needed toimplement the Government's national mental health strategy for 1994-2004, it says, and children and young persons are suffering the most.

The commission's call for more money comes in the wake of a number of well publicised cases highlighting inadequate care for the mentally ill. It also follows a series of inquiries, including the Mason Report, which have all called for a cash injection.

...To cater for the needs of the young, new Zealand required 1080 people working in community mental health teams, said commission chairwoman Dr Barbara Disley.

Dr Disley said the commission wanted to see an increase of $59 million every year, or a total increase of $355 million in current expenditure, to bring annual expenditure on mental health to $845 million by 2004..

NZ Herald Dec 3, 1998 

Mental health millions unspent

NZ Herald August 7, 1998
By Andrew Young - health reporter

Health officials are under spending on psychiatric services despite thousands of people missing out on care.

A new performance audit reveals the Health Funding authority was forecast to under spend by $7 million its mental health budget earmarked for desperately needed new services.

The Ministry of Health audit, obtained by the New Zealand Herald, comes just a day after an inquest into the deaths of six people shot by paranoid schizophrenic Stephen Anderson at Raurimu in February last year.

The Taumaranui coroner, Tim Scott, is expected to be critical of the psychiatric care Anderson received…The authority responsible for p[sending $6 billion a year of taxpayers money on new mental health services, but had only spent $49 million…. 

Excerpts from

Our teen suicide shame

Sunday Star-Times December 4, 1994

Nearly six months after a UN report revealed new Zealand had the highest rate of teen suicide in the industrialised world and the Government promised action, Chris Fogarty finds good intentions but little action.

The polite term for suicide - the one you’ll read in death reports almost daily in the newspaper - is no suspicious circumstances.

But the suspicion is that after 20-years in which local youth suicide rate has tripled to be the highest in the industrialised world, there has been a lot of talk and very little real action.

Remember this was written in 1994.

Suicides far outnumber road deaths

Auckland rate 232 to 99

By Alison Horwood

More than twice as many Aucklanders die by their own hand as are killed on the roads.

Police statistics reveal that 232 people in Auckland have killed themselves so far this year - compared to a road toll of 99.

Some of the cases reported have been classed as suicides by police inquest officers but have yet to receive a final ruling from the coroner.

The police and Auckland coroner say the suicide rate has now reached epidemic proportions. Self inflicted deaths in the first 10-months of 1997 already outstrip the 1996 figure and are more than double the 1995 rate.

In Auckland central there have been 127 suicide this year. In Waitakere, self inflicted deaths outnumber road deaths 39 to 10.

Acting Auckland coroner Mate Frankovich said people who fell victim were often young and male, but the problem was no longer restricted to teenagers. It affected people from all ages, cultures and walks of life. Suicides of young men could often be traced to being jilted by girlfriends, he said.

Many men could not cope with the shame of losing a job or suffering financial problems. A history of sexual abuse also seemed a common factor.

Mr Frankovich said most people did not leave a note, but often hinted at their suicide plans to friends and family.


"Suicide, like a great work of art, is prepared in the silence of the heart," said Albert Camus. Now there are recognised signs, none of which in themselves necessarily indicate a death wish, but which , in combination, just might. Pay attention if your child…

  • Talks or writes about suicide
  • Does artwork with death themes
  • Gives away [prized possessions
  • Shows a sudden apparent improvement from depression
  • Makes unexpected apologies for past wrongs
  • Goes in for minor self mutilations;
  • Takes unnaturally long to get over a relationship bust up.

Up to us to end pointless deaths

Garth George in the NZ Herald 5/11/97

"….What is it we must ask ourselves, that makes so many see life as an insurmountable problem rather than an exciting challenge; as a penance to be endured rather than an adventure to be grabbed with both hands?

One thing's for sure: it isn't a problem we can hand off, as we try to do with most things, to the Government. Granted successive Governments over the past few decades have helped to create a greedy, every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog society in which suicide might flourish. But we, the people, have allowed them to do it and now the ball is very firmly in our court.

…It's up to each and every one of us to ask ourselves: "What can I do, personally, to help to alleviate this dreadful affliction? Can I hold out the hand, not of help or advice or counseling, but of unconditional love and friendship to some person I know is having a bad time?"

And those of us who believe in a power greater than ourselves - be we Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or whatever - must beg the God or gods we believe in to give us the humility, the wisdom, the tolerance, the patience, the kindness, the acceptance of others that might make us not only examples of life well lived but equip us to bring affirmation and hope to those who can't cope. "

From a Project K brochure 1997:
There is abundant evidence that we are not attending to the needs of many of our children and young people. Some examples are:

New Zealand has the highest teenage suicide rate of all industrialised nations. By age 16, one in every 25 females and one in every 50 males will have tried to take their own life. - Project Adventure.

In the 15-24 year old age group the commonest cause of death is vehicle crashes (about 43 percent of youth deaths in the Northland region). A high proportion of drivers were intoxicated. It should be noted that a number of the vehicle crashes are thought be be suicide - Northland Health.

New Zealand has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate of all the industrialised countries - Project Adventure.

In 1994, females aged between 15 and 19 accounted for 19 percent of all abortions, but onlt 7 percent of all live births - Department of Statistics 1995.

25 - 35 percent of young people aged between 15 and 17 get drunk at least once a month in the Auckland/Northland region. 35-54 percent of young people between the ages of 18-19 get drunk once a month - Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, 1993

24 per cent of 15-17 year olds have tried marijuana in the last 12 months - Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, 1993.

Every year 50,000 young people leave school. An estimated 7000 of them face a bleak future including long term unemployment - Employment Task Force.

Slip in family values blamed for suicide epidemic

By Mary Jane Boland NZ Herald 30-10-97

Auckland has been dubbed the suicide capital of the country by the city's coroner.

Mate Frankovich took a rare and strong stand yesterday, saying he had a moral duty to speak out about the increase in suicide, which had reached epidemic proportion.

The problem was a national one but he believed from talking to other coroners that Auckland youth were particularly at risk from an astonishingly high suicide rate.

The Auckland office deals with at least one suicide every fortnight where young people - with no history of mental illness - have decided to end their lives.

Mr Frankovich said he was appalled at the "aimless, purposeless" lives many youngster led.

He pointed to a breakdown in family values as a leading cause. Although legislation usually limits the reporting of details about suicide, Mr Frankovich said he was using his position's authority to discuss examples where young people had needlessly taken their own lives. By raising awareness of the problems he hoped to prevent further deaths…

Self inflicted deaths in Auckland in the first 10 months of this year already outstrip the 1996 figure and are more than double the 1996 rate.

Police statistics show 232 people in Auckland have killed themselves so far this year - more than twice the road toll of 99.

Mr Frankovich blamed some parents for the high suicide rate, saying many failed to instill a sense of self esteem or confidence in their offspring.

Wasted Youth

(Excerpts from the feature by Dennis Welch in the New Zealand Listener December 6, 1997)

Three young New Zealanders will kill themselves this week. How many more have to die before we act to reverse one of the worst youth suicide rates in the world?

….between the first cartoons on Saturday morning and the last infomercials on Friday night another three young lives have been voluntarily snuffed out. That makes 156 a year - and for every one who does it, 10 more try and fail…The startling thing about New Zealand's youth suicide rate is that it has nearly quadrupled in the past 20-years. In 1976, just 42 people aged between 15 and 2 took their own lives; but the rate began to climb dramatically from the late 70s on, with particular sharp increases in the late 80s.

The alarm bells first rang in 1988, when it was found that the suicide rate of young men had trebled in 20 years; they rang again a month ago when the headfline "Suicides Far Outnumber Road Deaths" awoke Aucklanders to the gruisly fact that so far this year 232 people in their city had killed themsleves, compared with a road toll of "only" 99.

"People are generally tired of the extremely limited 'perfect' narrow intellectual scientific material approach to life, and the youth of today is so tired of this and its limitations that they are beginning to feel that there must be more to life than this (maybe this is one of the reasons we have such a high suicide rate amongst our teenagers)." - Carl Jung, 1961

The most comprehensive suicide study this country has ever seen, the Canterbury Suicide Project, has been analysing data collected over the past six years relating to 202 suicides and 302 suicide attempts…The first thing it's crucial to understand says principal investigator Annette Beautrais is that there is no single, simple, clear cut underlying youth suicide. There are multiple causes, the main ones being:

  • Childhood disadvantage or difficulty such as family conflict or sexual abuse.
  • Drug use disorders
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • The triggering of the suicide attempt by some life crisis such as the break-up of a relationship or troble with the law.
  • Psychiatric problems: a third of the projects sample have a history of psychiatric admission and 90 percent have at least one psychiatric disorder, eg depression.
  • Parental problems
  • Low socio-economic status, unemployment and poverty per se are not significant factors.
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