Warning: This article discusses suicide and may be upsetting for some readers.
The suicide rate dropped during the level 4 lockdown, the Chief Coroner says.
Judge Deborah Marshall is directly contradicting reports that there had been a rise in suicides during the 33 days of level 4, although she said she would not be releasing the actual figures for the period.
"It would be irresponsible to release provisional numbers for such a short period of time, or to associate these figures with the pandemic, as the numbers can rise and fall for many reasons. The release of annual provisional figures allows for more accurate comparison," she said today.
"However, there have been concerning reports of a reported rise in suicide rates during alert level 4. In the interests of addressing this, I can confirm based on the provisional numbers I have, this is incorrect."
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Marshall said she was working closely with Carla na Nagara, the director of the Suicide Prevention Office, to monitor suspected suicide numbers.
Suspected suicides that have been reported to the coroner during and since level 4 are still being investigated by the coroner, and intent will not yet have been established, she said.
There were always several contributing factors when a person died by suicide and they were "highly personal to each individual".
The provisional trend suggested that the suicide rate was lower during the 33 days of level 4 than in the preceding 33 days (February 22 – March 25), and lower than the same period for every year since 2008.
"I have no further comment to make on this outside of the provisional annual release."
Provisional annual suicide figures are released by the Chief Coroner at the end of the financial year and will be made available in the coming months.
The Suicide Prevention Office's Carla na Nagara endorsed Marshall's statement, saying she hoped it would end "unhelpful speculation".
"During the Covid-19 response it has been necessary to focus on numbers, as we tackled the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, talking about suicide numbers will not help us to prevent suicide in New Zealand, and it can have the opposite effect."
Everyone in society - from employers, friends and family to government departments - had a part to play in "preventing people from becoming so distressed that they see suicide as their only option", she said.
"Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide will confirm the only acceptable number of suicides is zero."
She acknowledged that the Covid-19 response could have significant long-term effects on people's lives but said an increase in suicide was not inevitable.
"No matter what the stress is - and I acknowledge there is significant pressure in many of our communities at this time - if our mental wellbeing is strong, we can cope better with problems and uncertainty in our lives."
Na Nagara said it was possible for the country to avoid a spike in mental health distress in coming months if people were proactive in accessing support and practicing helpful techniques now.
"Record investments are being made in mental health and wellbeing, and more support is available than ever before."
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:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202