by Craig Cooper

It was a sad coincidence that 24 hours after media published a story this week about 579 suicides in 2015/2016, updated data was made public.

To symbolise the 2015/16 deaths, 579 pairs of shoes were laid out in Auckland, Invercargill and Whangarei at the weekend.

The shoes are travelling the country, bound for Parliament on September 10. They represent the number of people who died between July 2015 and June 2016.


If we were to do this for the 2016/17 year, we would need another 27 pairs of shoes. 606 people died in the year ended June 2017 - the worst 12-month toll in New Zealand in the past 10 years.

In Northland, in the year ended June, we lost 36 people to suicide. It is the worst year on record, in the past decade.

Our previous annus horribilis was 2012/13, when eight people killed themselves in October 2012. Five were under the age of 23.

Those deaths were partly the catalyst for the NZ Herald series Break The Silence, which began last month.

It was controversial, because many people believe that suicide should not be talked about.
But where has that got us?

We've not talked openly in public about suicide, about depression and mental health, about the warning signs. About the statistics.

Break The Silence focused on young people. And rightly so - young men and women aged 24 and under are the single highest risk category.

Men in general though, make up 75 per cent of the total. Mostly European men.

And in the 60-plus age group, the percentage skew shifts. Men make up 80 per cent of the deaths, women just 20.

Of the 606 deaths, 130 were Maori. That's about 21 per cent - disproportionately higher than the roughly 15 per cent of the national population that identify as Maori.

Over the past decade, our coroners, police, health professionals and politicians have been well aware of the magnitude of our suicide challenge.

The more public that this information becomes, the less weight that should fall on these people, when it comes to dealing with it.

They are confronting, shocking statistics that should be talked about.

After the worst 12 month period on record, it seems that being more open about suicide might be worth giving a go.

Where to get 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 (1pm to 11pm)
- DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
- SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
- OUTLINE: 0800 688 5463 (confidential service for the LGBTQI+
community, their friends and families)