Hone Mihaka has known a dozen friends and relatives who have taken their own lives, and he was almost one of them.

The Bay of Islands man is passionate about stopping suicide, with a special focus on teenagers. Mihaka's 14-year-old niece took her own life last week.

"I just thought 'not again. Another one'.

"We've got a Kiwi cultural issue. We've got a lot of experts out there. But we're still not finding solutions. The numbers aren't going down, they're climbing up."


Unicef released a report yesterday showing New Zealand is near the bottom when it comes to child well-being. A core reason for this is our adolescent suicide rates - they're the highest in the world.

Mihaka described his own darkest moment.

He tried to kill himself 25 years ago after he had abused his then-partner. Now he advocates passionately to stop domestic violence. He said he tried to end his life as his partner lay bleeding in the next room.

But his method didn't work.

"Thank God or I wouldn't have a son and have become a role model among the grassroots people of my tribe."

Mihaka believed there was a web of interconnected reasons that could lead someone to suicide. He cited poverty, isolation, loneliness, mental health, abuse, financial and relationship issues as possibilities.

He said the only solution was to talk about it. Kiwis, and men in particular, were too scared and ashamed to reveal their feelings and ask for help.

"A male commits suicide every day in New Zealand. And no one's talking about it. No one's saying enough about it.


"Every New Zealander in this country has been touched by the hand of suicide. We've all been impacted.

"We owe it to 579 New Zealanders who died last year from suicide to talk about it."

Mihaka is the chairman of Northland Rats - Riders Against Teenage Suicide. The group was set up after a spate of youth suicides in Northland. They raise awareness by riding their motorcycles and encouraging others to talk about suicide.

"Once they get to that cliff face called suicide and they jump off. There's no coming back from that."

UN goals and New Zealand's ranking - what Unicef found

Ensuring health and well-being: 39 out of 41 developed nations. Poor rating reflects high teen birthrate and adolescent suicide rate.

Ending poverty: 22
The report found 19.8 per cent of children live in relative income poverty.

Ending hunger: 18
One in 10 children live with adult who is "food insecure." At the same time 32 per cent of young NZers are obese or overweight.

Promoting decent economic growth and work:34
Just over 15 per cent of children live in jobless households. The global average is 9 per cent.

Reducing inequalities: 26
The share of total income going to the top 10 per cent of households with children is nearly 20 per cent higher than the share of income of the bottom 40 per cent.

●For more see unicef

Children fare poorly in NZ - study

With the worst teen suicide rate in the world and the fifth highest teen pregnancy rate, New Zealand has come out near the bottom in a damning report that compared child well-being across rich countries.

New Zealand was ranked 34 out of 41 countries, behind nations such as Lithuania, the Republic of Korea and Australia.

The Unicef report - Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries - ranked countries based on their performance and detailed the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in child well-being.

This is the first report of its kind using the sustainable development goals made for the 2015 Paris agreement to halve poverty by 2030.

New Zealand performed worst in the health and well-being category with a rank of 39 out of 41 because of its high rates of teen pregnancy, baby mortality, and adolescent suicide.

Unicef executive director Vivien Maidaborn said:

"We're hardening up, we're starting to say this level of inequality is okay. Adults are killing children or children are killing themselves.

"No New Zealanders want that to be okay."

Maidaborn believed the country needed to move to a child-centred policy approach. An example would be instead of increasing accommodation supplements, where the increase just goes to the landlord, create a system to ensure that a family's housing costs never exceed more than 25 per cent of their income.

"Children don't do well in a country by accident, they do well by design.

"Countries like Iceland, Norway and Finland have very specific strategies in place so they know every child will do well. They reduce inequality.

"We need to put children at the centre. At the moment we design for the economy or for reasons of risk management or efficiency. Then we try and fix the bits that don't work for particular families."

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said vulnerable children were often "invisible". He said New Zealand needed to rally together to address neonatal mortality rates, teen pregnancy and suicide.

"By signing up to the sustainable development goals, the Government has committed us to halving poverty by 2030 and this report shows us exactly why we need to do that.

"The next steps are having targets and milestones to measure progress, and a concerted plan to get us there."

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley had not seen the report but said the Government had focused on supporting the most vulnerable Kiwis.

She cited the $2 billion a year Family Incomes Package, which will lift families' incomes by an average of $26 a week.

"It's expected to lift 20,000 families above the threshold for severe housing stress, and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half the median income by around 50,000."

Child Poverty Action Group health spokeswoman Professor Innes Asher called the report a "wake up call". She said 100,000 children experience severe difficulties and another 100,000 were in moderate difficulty.

Asher said we needed more extensive family income packages, to pass the healthy homes bill so all houses would be insulated and have a heating source, and said GP visits should be free for children until age 17.

Massey University director of education professor John O'Neill said children in poverty are less likely to have access to good quality education.

O'Neill cited early childhood solutions such as increasing the proportion of qualified teachers and ensuring the quality in the poorest communities is as high as possible.

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

Canterbury Support Line: 0800 777 846