Concern at region's suicide toll

By Kiri Gillespie, Brendan Manning

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Fifty-one people took their own lives in the Bay of Plenty/South Waikato region last year.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean released the figures for the Rotorua coronial region, which encompases the Bay of Plenty, this month as part of the nation's provisional annual suicide statistics.

Judge MacLean said the figures showed concerning trends - youth suicide surged and Maori were over-represented.

This is the third year Judge MacLean has publicly released the annual suicide figures. More people took their own lives each year than die on the nation's roads. Males made up 74 per cent of all self-inflicted deaths.

Ngai te Rangi spokesman Paora Stanley said the level of desperation felt in the community since 2008 had increased in the past eight months, especially among Maori.

The iwi regularly surveys a group of 60 teenagers to help gauge how young people were feeling, as part of their work to combat the high number of Maori suicides.

It also runs a mobile health clinic offering counselling and support for youth and is involved in research currently being done by Massey University into suicide, and how much it should be talked about.

Mr Stanley said the research suggested preventing suicide by building young people's resilience through connecting families together.

"It is as simple as having a meal together," he said.

"The research suggests when a family sits around together without the television, without the iPad. If you do that once a week, the research says that lessens the chance of a kid committing suicide. And that goes around all cultures."

Tauranga Girls' College principal Pauline Cowens said the loss of anyone through suicide was a challenge for all of society "to unpack and address" the pressure teenagers were under.

"I agree with the Chief Coroner that there are no silver bullets but we are all responsible in some way for the society we live in."

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Ms Peters specialises in mental health and said a lack of mental health diagnosis, from teens with conditions not yet picked up, could be a factor in some teen suicides.

"However, the key pressures or challenges facing teenagers today can be a range of things."

This included problems with the family, feeling like a failure at school, loneliness, feeling "different", bullying, and having a chronic physical illness can be hard for some, she said.

"Anniversary dates of a loved one's death can be hard for some young people."

No one from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board has been available for comment since the Bay of Plenty Times requested an interview 11 days ago.


KEY FACTS



  • The youngest suicide since coronial service records began in 2007 occurred last year - a boy aged between 5 and 9.


  • Over the past year, the number of Maori suicides has increased for most age groups, in particular the 15 to 19-year-old group.


  • Suicides in the Christchurch region rose by 14 to 81 in the past year. The previous year's lower figure reflected the phenomenon of a drop in suicide rates after large scale crisis events and natural disasters.


  • The rate of suicides in the 50 to 74-year-old group has dropped.


  • Suicide rates for unemployed people remain high compared to employed people.


  • Students and retired people continue to have high suicide rates.

BY ETHNICITY


2011/12:

Asian: 19

Pacific: 31

Maori: 132

Other: 365

2010/11:

Asian: 19

Pacific: 22

Maori: 101

Other: 416( Other includes European, not elsewhere classified and New Zealand European)

SUICIDE: WHERE TO GET HELP


Lifeline 0800 543 354, Lifeline's Suicide helpline 0508 TAUTOKO, Youthline 0800 376 633, Kidsline 0800 543 754 (weekdays 4-6pm), What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight 7 days, for people aged 5 to 18), Depression Helpline 0800 111 757, Samaritans 0800 826 666 and Healthline 0800 611 116.

If it's an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. Or call Youthline 0800 376 633, Lifeline 0800 543 354, Depression Helpline 0800 111 757, What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon-midnight).

Websites: The Lowdown (for young people) www.thelowdown.org.nz or free text 5626, www.depression.org.nz , www.samaritans.org.nz.


ADVICE TO HELP


Find someone to confide in.

Seek information online. The Mental Health Foundation Suicide Prevention Information Service is great for all cultures and ages and is available at www.mentalhealth.org.nz.

Find a youth-friendly GP or therapist. If it doesn't feel right, try someone else.

Surround yourself with supportive, positive people such as family. If not family, find other people to play that role, such as neighbours, workmates, sports coaches, marae-based people, etc.

- Janet Peters

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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