Experts say mental health has reached a crisis point in New Zealand. The issue is so serious the Government invested more than $1.9b in improving mental health services in the most recent budget. Bay of Plenty Times health reporter Jean Bell dives into the numbers to discover the most vulnerable demographic and asks why this might be the case.
The pressure to fill "an unfillable ideal" might be one reason why men in their 40s are the demographic with the highest number of suicides in Tauranga and the Western Bay, a mental health advocate says.
Ministry of Justice provisional figures released under the Official Information Act showed 112 people were believed to have committed suicide in Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2018.
The number of men who died significantly outweighed the number of women, with 79 men taking their own lives compared with 33 women.
The 40 to 49 age range carried the largest number of suicides, with 27 people - nine women and 18 men - dying during these five years.
The statistics included some cases that were suspected suicides still being investigated.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce business growth advisor Jason Stockdale said there were pressures in life and business when someone was in their 40s.
"You may be a little more cautious making decisions because by this age you may have more assets or a family to protect."
He said he knew of business owners in their late 40s who went through the Global Financial Crisis who said they were under so much stress they found it hard to motivate themselves and function properly.
"Bouncing back seemed overwhelming at their time in life and they were also concerned for their staff which added another layer of stress."
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He said some larger companies had wellbeing managers with a much larger focus on health and safety, along with counselling.
However, Stockdale said the issue was who was looking after the owner of the business.
"That is where I see the cracks appearing," he said.
"The business suffers because the owner is stressed and blokes just accept that as business as usual.
"Some large businesses do this well but most small business don't have a plan in place or have the skill set to tackle their own let alone someone else's mental health concerns."
C3 Church pastor Tamati Cameron said mental health and suicide was a "massive concern" in the community.
He said he had "lots of conversations" about mental health with young men who were struggling, but he had never had a similar chat with someone over the age of 40.
He believed younger people found it more acceptable to speak about the topic than older generations.
"It's more okay to speak about feelings now."
He found that drugs and abusive family history were common among the troubled young men he worked with.
He said having a community-based centre with a youth worker who young people could speak with would be a great asset to communities.
Curate Church lead pastor Joel Milgate said he suspected that there was more stigma around speaking about mental health among the older generations.
He believed people in their 40s faced numerous life stresses, including work, financial and family pressures, meaning it could be a "volatile" time of life.
"Some people get to the top of the career ladder and wonder if it's worth it," he said.
He said the "power of community" could play an important role in helping with the issue.
"The more isolated someone is, the more debilitating it can be."
Tauranga's Barter Barber Sam Dowdall said men felt pressured to fill an "unfillable ideal".
He said the financial burden could weigh heavier on men, especially if they perceived themselves to be the "head of the house".
He said men had a hard time opening up and there was a lack of safe spaces where men between the age of 30 and 50 could share their worries.
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Shaun Robinson said pathways to suicidal behaviours were complex and there was no single reason why male suicide rates are higher than females.
"Some of the contributing factors for males can include self-stigma about talking about difficult thoughts and feelings and a reluctance to seek support. Evidence also shows that men can be particularly at risk in times of economic hardship such as redundancy or farm or business financial problems."
He said early intervention was critical, with an overall response to reducing suicide including a reduction in some of the social drivers of suicide, such as poverty and family violence.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board did not answer questions about Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty's suicide numbers and the high number of men who had taken their lives.
The DHB said its latest Mental Health and Addictions Service Directory provided a list of DHB-funded services available, which is broken down into age-related categories. The directory can be found on the DHB's website.
IF YOU NEED HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
• 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 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666