6 Oct 2015

Number of suicides highest since records began

5:40 pm on 6 October 2015

New figures show 564 people died by suicide in the last year - the highest number since records began eight years ago.

Chief Coroner judge Deborah Marshall today released annual provisional suicide statistics, showing 35 more people took their own life compared with the previous year.

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Female suicide deaths have dropped from 144 to 136. Photo: 123RF

The suicide rate had also gone up from 11.7 to 12.2 per every 100,000 people, but it was lower when compared to 2010 and 2011.

Judge Marshall said it was disappointing that last year's drop in suicides had not continued despite increased awareness.

"Over the last eight years I believe we've seen a shift in society's preparedness to have a more open conversation about suicide, but we are not seeing any movement in what is an unfortunate static annual figure."

The number of male suicides had risen from 385 last year to 428 this year, and female suicide deaths had dropped from 144 to 136.

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Photo: Ministry of Justice

The age group with the highest number of suicides was the 20-24-year-old group, with 61 deaths, followed by the 40-44-year-old group with 58 deaths.

Maori continue to be disproportionately represented, with 93 deaths last year.

Mental Health Foundation director of programmes Moira Clunie said people needed to talk more about how they could help potential victims.

"We do need to talk more about suicide prevention and what we can all do to support people when they are in this space, when they are feeling suicidal.

"It can be a really overwhelming thing, and when someone comes to us saying they are thinking about suicide it can be hard to know what to do."

She said there were a number of helplines people could call for help, such as the Suicide Crisis Line (0800 828865) and Lifeline (0800 543354).

The Ministry of Health's director of mental health, Doctor John Crawshaw, said the persistently high suicide rate was worrying and there were concering aspects which needed to be looked at harder.

He said the government was focusing on communities' level of suicide prevention help, with action plans for district health boards.