NZ is World Number 1 again: Suicides aged 15 to 19

New Zealand has got to pull together to address an appalling suicide rate that could be partly caused by the pressures that come with social media, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

“We have got to do a lot better – 579 suicides in New Zealand last year. We want to see that number come down,” Coleman said today.

“We have got to do things differently … we have certainly got to strive to do better. It’s not just a health issue, it is across education, MSD [the Ministry of Social Development], the whole of society – not just a Government problem. It is an issue for families, for schools, sports clubs. It needs a whole of society response.”

So we keep saying.   We’ve held this remarkable record for decades now.   Whatever we are doing, or not doing, is not making any visible difference.  

Asked what could be behind those statistics, the Health Minister said the situation was complex.

“There are a range of pressures, certainly society with pressures of social media on young people, it is an issue that all societies, all Western countries are grappling with. And we’ve all got to do better on it.”

On whether schools should hold suicide awareness days, Coleman said suicide needed to be discussed, but in the appropriate context and with adequate support in place.

Prime Minister Bill English said talking about suicide was a “difficult balance”.

“Anyone who has experienced it knows that it can have quite a destabilising effect for young people. It can be glamorised. In that context a discussion is dangerous.

“On the other hand, sometimes if they are aware of what is going on, particularly with their own peers, then they can be effective in preventing it. It is a pretty difficult balance.”

Opposition parties have targeted the Government’s record on mental health, with Labour leader Andrew Little saying his party will make improving the system a priority if in Government.

As part of Budget 2017, an extra $224m will be invested into mental health services over four years. About $25m a year will go on new “innovative” proposals to tackle mental health issues.

Labour made no inroads into youth suicide either.   And spending more money isn’t going to work.  There is an elephant in the room.

There is an unwillingness to speak the truth.

Who will finally have the courage to state which New Zealanders aged 15-19 are taking their lives more than other New Zealanders aged 15-19?

It would be a good start to have up to date data.   And then look at more than age, sex and Maori/non-Maori, although those are already damning enough by themselves.


– NZ Herald

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