The Executive Director of the New Zealand Maori Council has said the latest suicide data released by the Chief Coroner is still an indication that the nation has a long way to go. Matthew Tukaki, who is also the former Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia, said that more investment needs to be made into community based initiatives. Figures released by Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall showed 654 people died from suicide in the year to June 2020, a drop of 31 deaths from the 2019 total of 685. The suicide rate in New Zealand is now 13.01 deaths per 100,000 people, down from 13.93.
“The rate does show a drop in the number of Maori in the data but we are still amongst the highest per head of population in the Western World and my biggest fear is we will see higher rates once we see the full social and economic impacts of the current COVID19 pandemic.” Tukaki said
‘We have a long way to go when it comes to addressing suicide in New Zealand and like I have always said this is not all about mental health – in many cases this is about the day to day struggle that people find themselves in when it comes to work, relationships, the challenges of running a business and much more – when those things break down people slide into dark spaces where they find it hard to cope or they don’t know where to turn to for help.” Tukaki said
“What we need to do is create more awareness about the signs whanau might be in trouble and how to refer or support those people at risk. The other thing we need to do is drive more investment into frontline services, community development initiatives and, as I have been pushing for, greater investment in developing a community-based workforce.” Tukaki said
“Importantly we are now seeing a rising trend in the Asian community and in order to better understand what is happening we need to make greater investments in research. And let us not forget that while Maori in some data sets have high per head of population rates we cannot forget what more we need to do when it comes to middle aged white males – we cannot leave anyone behind on this front.” Tukaki said
“The work has begun and this will be a long journey but we need that same team of five million on COVID19 to also pull together on suicide prevention.” Said Tukaki