New Zealand needs to provide much better care for the mentally ill, says a man who was rescued from a bid to take his own life.
Liam Martin is speaking out in light of the coroners' latest provisional statistics on suicide. They show an increase in the 2015/16 year to the highest number of suicides yet, 579, up from 564 the preceding year.
However, the per capita rate has remained relatively unchanged, at 12.33 deaths per 100,000 people, slightly lower than a peak of 12.65 in 2010/11.
We need to invest more money [in mental health services]. We should not have such a high suicide rate. One life saved is so much potential for the rest of New Zealand
Martin, a 19-year-old Aucklander, was taken to hospital by a friend after a drug overdose when he was depressed earlier this year.
He became an Instagram star at 16 for his photos impersonating celebrities which attracted nearly 2 million followers. By 17 he was suffering depression and living out of his car, and the pressure of his online persona and the harassment it received was becoming too much.
He said that when he was in hospital there were a number of others there who had harmed themselves. He waited 17 hours to be seen by a psychologist and faced another long wait for referral to a respite care centre, but once there, he found it very helpful.
Martin's problems have not gone, but he said, "I'm fighting; I can handle it."
In the depths of his depression, he did not know how or where to get help and he now devotes time to helping people find out.
"It doesn't have to be a [health] professional. It can be anyone that makes you happy and can help you overcome your situation. I have amazing friends who help me. There are so many people around you who can help. You have just got to reach out."
"Surround yourself with a good group of friends and people who can monitor your behaviour. It's important to be in healthy surroundings and keeping yourself happy.
"If you fall back into depression, don't look at it as a failure. It is an illness; it takes time to overcome.
"We need to invest more money [in mental health services]. We should not have such a high suicide rate. One life saved is so much potential for the rest of New Zealand."
In the coroners' provisional statistics, the Canterbury health district had the highest number of suicides, at 78, followed by Waikato, 55; Auckland, 50; Waitemata, 49; and Counties Manukau, 48.
By ethnicity, the highest rate of suicides was among Maori, at 21.57 per 100,000. The Asian rate, although comparatively low, at 8.28 per 100,000, had increased from 3.4 per 100,000 the preceding year (39 suicides, up from 16).
The number of male suicides decreased to 409, from 428 in 2014/15; the number by females increased to 170, from 136.
There were eight suicides by children aged 10-14, and 31 by people aged 75 or older.
The chief coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, said there needed to be more discussion about suicide prevention and how family, friends and colleagues could identify someone at risk and help them to get professional support.
"Everyone should recognise the importance of taking suicidal thoughts seriously and knowing where to get help."
The Green Party said the high rate of suicides should prompt the Government to urgently establish a national inquiry into mental health services.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman maintains no such inquiry is needed.
He said the suicide rate, although relatively stable, was too high. He noted DHBs had developed suicide prevention plans last year as part of a national suicide prevention action plan supported by $25 million over four years from the Government.
The Mental Health Foundation said suicide is preventable. Suicidal thoughts or feelings were not uncommon, and most people would recover.
"In most cases friends, whānau, workmates and neighbours will provide support along with professional services, and people will recover and live well."
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.