18 Aug 2011

Female teen suicides highest in OECD

8:42 am on 18 August 2011

The female youth suicide rate in New Zealand is the highest in the OECD.

The Mental Health Commission says suicide rates have fallen dramatically over the past two decades, but teenage girls are closing the gap with the males.

In 2008, the suicide rate for girls aged 15 to 19 was nearly 14 deaths per 100,000 people. For boys the same age, the figure was 19 per 100,000.

It is the narrowest gender gap across all age groups.

The narrowing gap for this age group is in sharp contrast for the general population, where the number of male suicides is three times that of women.

Youthline Auckland chief executive Stephen Bell says the narrowing gap coincides with a disturbing increase in violence and bullying among young girls.

On a more positive note, the report shows suicide rates for young people aged 15 to 24 are down more than 35% over the past two decades.

Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Lane says the reason is programmes over the past decade which have greatly improved mental health services for young people.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says current programmes are working for young men, and it's clearly time to focus on young women.

Dr Lane says the commission is developing a fresh "blue print" for mental health services and regular reporting of suicide figures will help steer this policy.