Suicide rates have almost halved in the Lakes District Health Board area this year but the Bay of Plenty hasn't seen a change.
The annual provisional suicide figures released by the chief coroner on Friday showed that 36 people died by suicide in the year to June in the Bay of Plenty DHB area, whereas 14 people died from Lakes DHB.
This translated to a suicide rate of 15.1 deaths per 100,000 in the past year for the Bay of Plenty and a 12.7 suicide rate from the Lakes DHB.
The year prior, 23 people died in the Lakes area. The figure did not change this year for the Bay of Plenty DHB.
However, local mental health experts say a drop in numbers is not an indicator of lives saved and that suicide prevention is something that everyone needs to be involved in.
Nationally, 654 people died by suicide - the lowest it has been in three years.
A further regional breakdown of figures, including gender, race and age, could not be made available at this time.
The Mental Health Foundation's advocacy alliance specialist Michael Naera - formerly of the Te Runanga o Ngāti Pikiao Trust in Rotorua - said the drop should not be an indicator to say lives had been saved.
"The fact of the matter is, we only incrementally reduced the national rate for Māori by 11. We need a significant drop to affirm what we are doing is working well.
"Basically we are comparing apples with pears and making rash statements based on what we think the statistics mean. Māori needed the data to make sense for them and only Māori can do this."
Nationally, 157 Māori died as a result of suicide.
Naera believed the figures alluded to an inability to remove cultural barriers, racism or addressing inequities.
"Māori are standing out for all the wrong reasons and we need to see change now."
He said the Government's inquiry into mental health needed fast-tracking to ensure targeted funding for Māori.
"Particularly, with the aftermath from Covid-19 likely to hit our communities."
Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall referred to speculation around the impact of Covid-19.
"During the first lockdown period, I said it was unhelpful to release figures for such a short timeframe, as it is nearly impossible to draw sound conclusions, nor do I believe such public discourse is helpful to people in distress."
Lakes Psychology clinical psychologist Debbie Heron said while the figures were promising, there needed to be a real push for the number wellness as we deal with the fallout of the pandemic.
She was unsure why the numbers decreased but said, sometimes, having "something bigger" to focus on could put things into perspective or change perspectives.
"When there's a lot of instability in society, that can have an impact on suicide rates, and sometimes favourably on suicide rates," she said.
She said she was surprised with the numbers given the personal level impact the pandemic had on people.
Bay of Plenty DHB mental health clinical director Dr Fiona Miller said death by suicide was often multi-factorial and not one could be identified as responsible but preventing suicide required an all-of-society effort.
"We need to look behind the numbers to understand what is contributing to our suicide rate, and to the different rates within different population groups. We then need to address those issues.
"We all impact one another's wellbeing. This includes friends, family members, employers, colleagues, sports clubs, social clubs, NGOs and government departments, as well as health and mental health services. We all have a part to play in preventing people from becoming so distressed that they see suicide as their only option."
Lakes DHB chief operating officer Alan Wilson said while it was heartwarming to see a decrease in numbers, 14 was still too many.
"We had a spike in suicide rates for the 2018-2019 year of 23 and there is little information on why, who and how this happened.
"Therefore the reduction this year looks significant at 14 but in reality, this number sits a little below the average of 16 when we divide a total number of suicides (218) over the 13-year period."
Provisional suicide rates relate to deaths where suicide is suspected but has not yet been confirmed by a coroner; some cases may eventually be found not to be suicides.
The regional suicide rate was calculated with the Ministry of Health's 2018-2019 population projection.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• 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
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
- Additional reporting by Cira Olivier.