Suspected suicides rates continue to drop, but Māori still disproportionately affected

7:31 pm on 25 October 2022
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It is the third year in a row there has been a year-on-year reduction in suspected suicide. (File photo) Photo: 123RF

The number of suspected suicides has continued to drop year on year, according to new data released by the office of the chief coroner.

The annual provisional suspected suicide statistics, released this afternoon, showed 538 people died by suspected suicide in the financial year to 30 June 2022.

The rate was 10.2 per 100,000, which statistically was significantly lower than the average rate over the past 13 financial years.

It is the third year in a row there has been a year-on-year reduction in suspected suicide.

Deputy chief coroner Anna Tutton said it was positive to note "that the number of suspected deaths by suicide is continuing to fall".

Suicide Prevention Office director Matthew Tukaki said the decrease was "encouraging" but every death by suicide was a "tragedy".

Matthew Tukaki, Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia.

Suicide Prevention Office director Matthew Tukaki. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

His office was working hard to "ensure a significant and sustained reduction in the suicide rate in Aotearoa" so New Zealanders lived long and productive lives, and fewer whānau, friends and communities were left grieving, Tukaki said.

Suicide was not just a health issue and people needed to work together to reduce suicide risk, including tackling social and economic determinants, he said.

"Strong, healthy, connected whānau, families and communities are one of the most important protective factors against suicide."

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson agreed, saying investing in a "connected community" could help reduce suicides.

Promoting "support" and "connection" between one another and continuing to invest in resources and getting the message out there would also give people confidence to reach out to someone they might be concerned about, Robinson said.

The Covid-19 pandemic had prompted the government to inject more in community support, which had also helped suicide prevention, he said.

But with Covid-19 restrictions loosened, those support efforts still needed to be maintained, he said.

"If we don't keep that up, my concern will be we won't continue this positive trend in the reduction of suicides."

Labour MP Andrew Little

Health Minister Andrew Little acknowledges that measures taken to improve mental health service access must be maintained. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Minister of Health Andrew Little said he was pleased with the measures the government taken overtime to improve access to mental health services.

"We have to continue that," Little said.

"But the reality is one suicide is one too many" and there was "plenty of work to do", he said.

Māori still disproportionately negatively affected

Māori also continue to be disproportionately negatively affected, with the provisional rate of suspected suicide for Māori at 15.9 per 100,000 this financial year, compared with the average of 10.2.

Meiana Gray, who is the operations lead at the centre of Māori suicide prevention Te Rau Ora, works alongside whānau who have experienced a loss through suicide and together they come up with whānau-led solutions on suicide prevention.

Overcoming loss of identity and continued inequities would help empower Māori, she said.

"Reconnecting with Māori ways of knowing, being and doing to build that identity and self-worth and self-determination, so we feel that that is an important protective factor."

Gray believed Te Rau Ora's mahi helped make a huge difference among Māori.

"It's based on the need they see from the loss that they've experienced. Those initiatives run throughout Aotearoa, we've been able to fund and empower those initiatives and to see what comes out of it."

But there was still a lot of work to do, Gray said.

"Our hope is that we have a suicide statistic release that says zero."

Everybody, including non-Māori, needed to be on the waka in helping with suicide prevention amongst Māori, Gray said.

"If we have whanau or friends or people in our communities that we associate with, it's about being able to talk to each other and learn how to be well and to support that and recognise when someone isn't well to be able to help them."

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

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) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

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

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