Hawke's Bay police sadly say suicides throughout the region have not "plummeted" despite a decline in recent statistics and re-emphasised the words of the chief coroner, who said the annual suicide total was "stubbornly consistent".
Eastern Police District coronial investigations manager Detective Sergeant Greg Macklow said police are committed to changing the status quo. "Suicide remains Hawke's Bay's leading cause of non-natural death. It has been so for the last five years."
He said while the Hastings Coronial office, which also covers areas outside Hawke's Bay, has experienced a drop-off in suicides the bulk of that decline was from outside the region. "Suicide claims on average upwards of 500 lives a year across New Zealand. That is 10,626 lives prematurely ended and families left grieving from 1990 to 2010. To further highlight the scale of suicides it is worth comparing the figures to the road deaths since 1990. There is a stark contrast between the steady 49 per cent decline of road deaths and the gradual increase of suicides.
"Put in to the Hawke's Bay perspective, suicides are now consistently surpassing road deaths. In 1990 the level of road deaths was treble that of suicides but now the situation is dramatically reversed with suicide taking double the number community member's lives than the roads."
He said there is always a prevailing view that some accidents will happen and that some suicides are inevitable, but his experience of looking into the deaths and gaining a glimpse into the lives of over 140 victims since 2009 is the vast majority want to live and often reach out for help.
He said police are engaged with the Hawke's Bay District Health Board in an effort to assist in leading a co-ordinated approach to tackling the complex problem of making people more resistant to suicidal thoughts and actions.
"It is my experience that a huge resource has been rightly targeted from across all areas of government, local government and the community as a whole to effect the changes needed to halve the road toll. A similar focused response is now the only way forward to reduce suicides."
He said in 2011 and 2012 police in Hawke's Bay responded to 815 calls for assistance with suicidal persons, averaging about eight per week. "There are a myriad of stories within the sphere of suicide. All the lives lost are important from the 10-year-old to the 74-year-old we lost across our region in 2012. Our people at risk come from right throughout the spectrum of age, race, gender and social standing. No group is immune and whilst there are some variances in at risk age groups and ethnicity, on the whole our deaths tend to represent our populations varied make-up proportionally."
He said there is a need for greater leadership, change in approach, attitude, education and open communication to impact on the problem.
He said the NZ Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2013 - 2016 offers a way forward. "From my perspective it is co-ordinating and enhancing the resources that is required along with public education.
"I'd urge anyone who feels that they are a risk to themselves or knows of anyone at risk to seek help and to keep pushing until they feel they have the assistance they need and suits them."
Police encourage people who feel they or someone else is at risk of harm to phone 111.
And those that need to talk to someone to call Lifeline on 0800 543 354.