28 Apr 2017

Pasifika youth attempting suicide more than others

11:55 am on 28 April 2017

Young Pacific Islanders in New Zealand are more likely than others to try to take their life according to new research.

Auckland University Pacific Studies lecturer Jemaima Tiatia-Seath is calling for more money and better suicide prevention strategies as a result.

In the study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, Dr Tiatia-Seath said although the suicide rate was lower for Pacific and Asian people over 15 than the general population, Pacific islanders, especially those aged 12-18, were three times more likely to attempt suicide.

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, Co-Head of School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, Co-Head of School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland Photo: Auckland University

She said at least 22 suicides a year occured among Pasifika but the figures were likely to be under-reported.

The data was collected over the period 1996-2013.

Another journal article said under-diagnosis of depression and anxiety was more likely in Pasifika, Maori and Asian New Zealanders.

Dr Tiatia-Seath said racism and other problems were preventing Pacific people from using suicide prevention services.

She said mental health services were not catering to the needs of Pasifika.

"There's cultural incompetency. There's institutionalised racism.

"There is unease, there's mistrust, so all these compounding factors do have a place in the way that Pacific people choose to access their services," Dr Tiatia-Seath said.

She believed the Pacific community had the know-how to reduce suicides but needed more help.

Dr Tiatia-Seath called for more funding, staff and a more culturally sensitive approach to prevention.

"The community has the solution," she said.

"The youth has the solution, but it is how then do we tap into all that knowledge and all that wisdom and be resourced for it. So we are able to provide an appropriate, relevant and effective suicide prevention strategy."

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The article suggested further Pacific ethnic breakdown of the data was needed. Photo: 123RF

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.