Warning: This article is about suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

The country's annual provisional suicide number is once again the highest since records began, hitting a record 668 deaths, but the Lakes District Health Board is bucking the trend.

In the past year nine people in the Lakes DHB committed suicide, the lowest number since records began in 2007/2008.

Te Runanga o Ngati Pikiao Trust, which aims to promote mental health and prevent suicide in Rotorua, project leader Michael Naera said the reduction in the Lakes DHB was "humbling".


"As a community, we've been working to bring people together to talk about mental health and suicide."

Naera said during the past year the trust had targeted vulnerable groups across the community and had focused on the causes of suicide.

"We had a keen focus on Turangi and the youth in that space because the rates there were high.

"It took a full community approach and I'm proud of the work we've done with them, breaking down those barriers."

He said a programme targeted at meth use had been rolled out in Rotorua, after discussion with local kaumatua.

"We changed our whole processes from just suicide to looking at the prevention space.

"We worked to raise awareness across a lot of marae because kaumatua raised with us methamphetamine use was contributing to the suicide space."

Nationally Māori suicide is the highest it has been since provisional statistics were first recorded and male Māori continue to be disproportionally represented in the statistics.


"Mental services across the Lakes District Health Board and the country have been hammered in the media for not doing enough, so we have moved away from focusing on those services and instead we are looking at the community," Naera said.

"Working with the DHB we are looking at continuing to bring positive events into the community and healing the other issues that contribute to suicide, such as addiction and homelessness."

Comedian and mental health activist Mike King has spoken in Rotorua several times over the past year as part of his Cool to Korero programme, and Naera said that had been a huge help.

"I think gagging people from talking about it isn't right, we need to open up and talk about it.

"Those conversations don't have to be about suicide, we need to be talking about depression and mental health issues as well.

"Particularly for men, they don't have to be staunch all the time, we are allowed to talk about it and we are allowed to cry."

Rotorua coroner Wallace Bain said it was good to see Rotorua's suicide numbers going down.

"Over the last year Mike King and I have done a lot of presentations in Rotorua and I think people are thinking about it a lot more.

"Getting out among the people and addressing some of these issues, surely it helps, it has to help."

He said as a smaller city it was easier to spread the message but people had to keep getting out there and talking to people about it.

Victim Support general manager Cam Cotter said it had seen a significant increase in people affected by suicide reaching out for help in the past year.

"It's important to remember though that the impacts of a suicide aren't isolated to a particular community.

"We could have a suicide in Wellington or Christchurch and be supporting a mum, a dad, a brother, or a nana living in Rotorua, so we tend to see demand for support increasing steadily despite regional variations in the suicide rate."

He said suicide was really tough for those it left behind.

"People experience a much different loss than they might after a natural death. People often feel stunned and disoriented, stigmatised, and socially isolated, and are more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes.

"They may even face elevated risk of suicidal behaviours themselves."

He said victim support worked to make sure people affected by suicide knew it was normal and okay to feel pain and confusion and there was a way through.

Where to get help:


0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

• Suicide Crisis Helpline:

0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)


0800 376 633


0800 543 754 (available 24/7)


0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

Depression helpline:

0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.