Suicide numbers a tragedy that requires much more work and focus: National Maori Authority



The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has called the publication of the latest suicide data in Aotearoa not just “sad but an indication of how much further we have to go”. Tukaki, a former Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia and who has been involved in the suicide prevention sector in Aotearoa for the last six years has said that we are “are at risk at losing a generation of New Zealanders from a diverse background of ages, locations and ethnicities so the situation we find ourselves is urgent”


“If there is one thing you can see by the data released today by the Chief Coroner is a change is underway but we need to know more about what is happening and what might be working. Among Māori populations for example there was a decrease in suspected suicides from 19.8 per 100,000 people to 15.8, but for Pacific populations there was an increase in the suspected suicide rate from 7.2 to 9.6. The critical question we need to be asking is why have the numbers decreased for Maori but not Pacific populations? What further investments can we make, programs we can stand up and much more” Tukaki said


“The other thing we need to clearly understand is what the medium to longer term impacts of COVID19 are and will be and how we might need to reengineer our current thinking and approaches. The other thing we need to be clear on is that while the overall number of suicides has gone down compared to the previous year any lives lost to suicide are too many. We need to also keep in mind that its not just those who have passed but also those who have made an attempt on their lives – for every life lost some estimate a further ten would have attempted” Tukaki said


“The answer for Maori and Pacific whanau in particular is continuing the approach of investing in local solutions, empowering communities and more so ensuring we do as much as we can to build the infrastructure and resources needed by them for them. And we should never rest on our laurels. We must see consistent decreases in numbers over a sustained period of time – in other words we need to be clear that many of the issues we are dealing with are complex and will take a lot of work and effort by all of us and not just some of us” Tukaki said


Tukaki has said that continued investment in resources and workforce at the local level is key as well as looking at further ways and means to utilise Rangatahi as the primary voice to get key critical messages across. Tukaki also said that based on the coronial data we were continuing to see suicide as not always about mental health:


“I have said time and time again that when someone takes their life a lot more is going on than something that has happened in the moment. We are talking about the daily struggles of life from relationship breakdowns to loss of jobs, from social isolation to addictions right through to bullying, the fear of the future. By addressing some of the bigger systemic challenges people face such as poverty and lack of housing we can go even further by reducing the numbers.” Tukaki said


"That said in order for us to get this right we need ensure that everyone is pulling in the right and same direction" Tukaki said


At the opening of the National Suicide Prevention Office in 2019 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:


"I'm constantly staggered that amongst all that grief and pain - grief and pain I can barely fathom - those parents take the time and still use the opportunity they have to drive for change for others.


"They provide practical solutions and insights from their own experience which sometimes defies the grief I know they must be experiencing."


Data:

  • In the year to 30 June 2021, 607 people died by suspected suicide, compared to 628[1] the year before – a decrease of 21 deaths, and a drop in the suspected suicide rate from 11.8 deaths per 100,000 to 11.6.

  • More broadly, there was a decrease in suspected suicides for females and males in the 15-24 age range, from 12.6 to 11.4 among females and 22.7 to 22.2 in males.

  • More than 700 000 people die due to suicide every year.

  • For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.

  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.

  • 77% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.

[1] The 2019/2020 number was previously published as 654. This number has been revised. Please refer to note 2 below for more information.

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