2017/18 provisional suicide statistics – Expert Reaction

The Chief Coroner has released the provisional suicide statistics from July 2017 to June 2018, which indicate the suicide rate has increased for the fourth year in a row.

Judge Deborah Marshall said it was a “tragedy to see the number of self-inflicted deaths increase again”.

The SMC asked an expert to respond to the latest statistics and the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry.

Dr Chris Bowden, Lecturer, School of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“It is disappointing but not surprising that we have seen an increase in the number of suicides in New Zealand. I have some hope that the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry will help highlight some important issues and solutions.

“If we are going to reduce suicide there needs to be greater designated funding for both suicide prevention and postvention in New Zealand. We need to establish a National Centre of Excellence to drive, guide and support a coordinated approach to evidence-based suicide prevention and postvention in New Zealand.

“If we want to decrease suicide we need to specifically target young men, Māori men, and working age men and develop gender-specific strategies as they have done overseas. We need to improve access to culturally-responsive crisis support, counselling and they need to be better trained and supported.

“Families/whānau who are supporting loved ones struggling with suicidality and dealing with the aftermath of suicide also need access to free counselling and support. There needs to be wrap-around support and less siloed support delivery. Finally I believe we need to develop and resource mental health education across all levels, from early childhood to tertiary institutions to help people develop coping skills and resiliency.

“I hope the lastest provisional statistics and the Inquiry spurs the government to shift its focus and act more quickly on addressing this serious issue.”