Hawke's Bay "can do a hell of a lot better" to prevent suicides, says the founder of a local suicide prevention initiative.
Provisional suicide statistics released yesterday by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall show 26 people died by suicide in the Hawke's Bay District Health Board region in the 2015/2016 year.
Flaxmere-based Te Taitimu Trust founder Zack Makaore said this was an "extremely high" number, which showed there needed to be more work done in suicide prevention.
He founded the trust, which reaches out to troubled youth, after losing his 15-year-old son Kelly to suicide in 2000.
The statistics showed that nationally, 579 people died by suicide in the 2015/16 year.
This was the highest number since the provisional statistics were first recorded for the 2007/08 year. While the numbers have increased, the suicide rate per 100,000 population for this year - of 12.32 - remains just lower than the 2010/11 year - 12.65.
In Hawke's Bay, the highest number of deaths by suicide recorded was 29 in the 2014/2015 year. However, this year's total was the lowest since the 2012/2013 year of 18.
Although Mr Makaore said some progress was being made, "I think it's still too slow. I think we can do a hell of a lot better."
He thought there needed to be collaboration between groups at both a national, and regional level.
"I've been in this sort of stuff since our boy died in 2000, around building collaboratives, and it's really difficult," he said. "Not one group has got the answer but maybe together we can do a lot better."
To prevent suicides, Mr Makaore said the community needed to be mobilised to support one another, and young people needed to be taught to talk about, and manage, their feelings.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board medical director of older persons and mental health services Simon Shaw said preventing suicide was a "multi-layered problem" involving numerous bodies from government agencies, to individual families.
The HBDHB had a range of services around suicide and had spent the past couple of years further developing their mental health services.
Although they were continuously learning, and improving their practices, Dr Shaw said "unlike a surgeon we never know if we've saved someone's life."
Although it could be challenging to speak about suicide, Dr Shaw said being open, and not being dismissive to someone's feelings "can go an awful long way".
"People need to look out for one another ... and not be afraid to have those conversations."
The figures released yesterday needed to be taken "with a pinch of salt", because of population growth, he said.
Nationally, female suicides increased by 34 compared to last year, while male suicides dropped by 19. The ratio of female to male suicides is 1:2.41, the closest since records began.
The highest number of suicide deaths were in the 25 to 29-year-old age group, with 66. There were 60 deaths in the 20 to 24-year-old group.
Suicide deaths for those of Maori ethnicity were down by one from last year with 129. Within this total, Maori male suicide has dropped by 10 from last year.
Female Maori suicide deaths were the highest number on record at 47, up by nine.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline - 0800 543 354
• Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757 to talk to a trained counsellor
• Samaritans - 0800 726 666
• Youthline - 0800 376 633. Text 234 free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Healthline - 0800 611 116