Topic: Health

Recorded NZ suicide figures at an all-time high

By Heeni Brown

New Zealand's suicide rates have reached an all-time high at 579 since the Coroner's Office released its first annual provisional suicide figures in 2008. Former comedian and mental health advocate Mike King is calling for major changes to New Zealand's mental health system.

King spends most of his time traveling up and down the country trying to shift NZ's attitude towards suicide.

"Having problems, having depression, having anxiety, having a mental health problem even having suicidal thoughts won't kill you, holding onto those thoughts battling through them or trying to battle through them by yourself that's the killer. And until we get rid of that stigma around mental health create positive societies or attitudinal change those numbers will continue to climb."

King is referring to the 579 New Zealanders who took their lives this 2015-2016 year. That's 15 more suicides compared to last year's figures.

Ministry of Health's Director of Mental Health Dr. John Crawshaw in a statement says work will continue through ongoing commitment and investment, including a stronger focus on cross-agency and government work and closer collaboration with communities, as well as funding.

However, King says there needs to be more focus on people rather than money.

"We are also focussed on the 20% of people who have the problem but no one is focussing on the 80% of New Zealand population who don't know anything about mental health, who know nothing about why someone would want to take their lives, but whose judgemental attitude is having the biggest effect on the 80% and by judgemental attitude, I mean people who are saying things like when someone's depressed or someone is going through a hard time 'Drama Queen', 'Attention Seeker', when someone commits suicide 'Coward' how could you do that do your family that's the 'Coward's' way. It's that judgemental attitude that is forcing people who are going through problems to hold onto those problems."

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall, who released the new numbers on suicide, says there needs to be more discussion on the prevention of suicide.

If you are concerned about someone who may need help, contact Lifeline 0800 543 534 or the Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 TAUTOKO.