Concern as Bay deaths rise

By Patrick OSullivan

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said while it is encouraging to see a dip in the suicide rate, it is still too high. Photo / Thinkstock
Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said while it is encouraging to see a dip in the suicide rate, it is still too high. Photo / Thinkstock

Provisional suicide numbers for Hawke's Bay show 28 deaths to the end of June, up from 18 for the 2012-13 year and 27 for 2011-12.

Nationally, the latest number was 529, the lowest by two since the figures were first produced for the 2007-08 year. There were 12 fewer such deaths compared with last year and 29 fewer than 2010-11.

The previous lowest total was for 2008-09, with 531 recorded deaths.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said that, while it was encouraging to see a slight drop in the rate of people taking their own lives, it was still too high.

"This year's numbers have moved in the right direction but not by much. In spite of this, it's important we focus on the positives and there are some we can take from the statistics," he said.

Director of mental health services for Hawke's Bay District Health Board (HBDHB), Dr Simon Shaw, said the latest figure would probably decrease as investigations found deaths to not be suicide.

Figures could also be misrepresentative because deaths were grouped where suicides occurred, not where people lived.

"Maybe the major centres will have a few more people who were visiting," he said.

Annual variations were to be expected "for a relatively rare event".

Police wrote to the HBDHB about the issue last year, concerned about the lack of sharing among agencies after two Flaxmere students died within one month of each other. Subsequently, the DHB created a new role.

"The intention is by co-ordinating responses afterwards, you prevent any further ones that might be linked to that death," Dr Shaw said.

"There is a recognition that prevention is an activity that needs to occur across a wide range of agencies and a wide number of government sectors.

"Where the post has made a difference is pulling together all the agencies and groups that are involved."

Nationally, the number of deaths for people aged less than 24 years was down from last year - 110 compared with 144.

The lowest number in the 15 to 19-year-old age bracket was recorded for the past seven years at 46, down 17 on last year and 34 the year previous.

Judge MacLean said the drop in teen suicide was good news.

"These are the some of the toughest and most tragic cases coroners deal with," he said.

The number of deaths recorded for over-60s went up from 75 in 2012-13 to 97 in 2013-14.

About one in every five people who take their own life is Maori.

Where to get help

The Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (8am to midnight) — 0800 111 757

Healthline 0800 611 116

Samaritans 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) — 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

- Hawkes Bay Today

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