According to figures released by Judge Deborah Marshall, New Zealand’s Chief Coroner, New Zealand’s suicide statistics have reached a record high.
The numbers have continued to rise over the last three years, with 606 people taking their own lives during 2016-2017. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of suicide among countries in the developed world with men, Māori and Pasifika people, and teenagers particularly over-represented in the statistics.
New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is high in relation to other developed nations too: twice as high as the suicide rate in the US and nearly five times worse than Britain.
One side of suicide prevention that is not being talked about, according to Professor Said Shahtahmasebi, is that the link between suicide and mental health is one of the major issues that prevent effective suicide prevention strategies. He argues that the New Zealand government continues to pump money into mental health services under the guise of suicide prevention, refusing to see the evidence that challenges this link between mental health and suicide. Statistics show that one third of all people in suicide cases come into contact with mental health services and go on to take their lives anyway. This means that at least two thirds die having not come into contact with these services.
The Public Service Association (PSA) consider these statistics to be a “national disgrace” and that we “simply must do more” to reduce these numbers. They call for commitment to a national suicide prevention target. The group are currently taking 579 shoes across the country to represent the 579 lives that were lost to suicide last year, according to the coroner’s report. On Monday, 27 shoes were added to that total on the lakefront in Queenstown and at Mission Bay in Auckland.