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

This series has been a year in the making. The problem, decades.

The Herald started looking into youth suicide last August after a cluster of deaths in Kaitaia. Quickly, it became apparent the phenomenon was wider and deeper.
We gathered some shocking statistics.

New Zealand has the worst teen suicide rate in the developed world, the second worst among those aged 25 and under.


Multiple experts pointed to a leap in the number of young Kiwis killing themselves in the mid-90s. The death rate has remained steady for two decades.

Last year almost 2000 young people were rejected or quickly referred on by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services - which deals only with the most severe cases. Some kids wait six months for an appointment.

We learnt that suicide crosses races, genders and economic backgrounds, although it's true that males, Maori and people living in poverty are over-represented in the death toll.

Once the series started on July 4 new figures came to light.

University of Auckland research suggested about 1 in 20 secondary school students try to kill themselves each year. Students from poor families were nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide.

Additional research found that almost half of New Zealand teenagers will self-harm at least once before they leave school. Self-harm is often a precursor to suicidal ideation.

We became convinced this was a huge problem that wasn't being talked about - not just in the media, but in homes and workplaces - everywhere Kiwis meet.

We spoke to scores of experts and we have tried hard to reflect every part of the debate. We have spoken to bereaved families, survivors, medical staff, academics and more.


It's hard to quantify the success of any series like this. As lead reporter Olivia Carville notes in today's report, at least three young people have died by suspected suicide since Break The Silence began.

But there have been developments.

• In the week we reported that many secondary schools were confused by what they could say about student suicide, the Ministry of Education announced it was reviewing its guidelines.

• The Ministry of Education updated its online advice to schools which previously contained four broken website links, after being alerted by the Herald.

• After four months of asking, we got an interview with Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who told us the idea of a suicide reduction target was back on the table after previously being rejected by his office.

• Coleman and Education Minister Nikki Kaye both said youth suicide was their "top priority".

• The Prime Minister's Chief Science Adviser Sir Peter Gluckman released a rare research report on youth suicide in New Zealand, outlining potential strategies to reduce the rate.
• Two principals have made controversial and moving addresses at school assemblies tackling the stigma that surrounds suicide.

• At a zero suicide forum in Auckland, Ministry of Health officials were grilled by mental health advocates for not taking the lead to combat the issue.

• A group of 12 parents who have lost children to suicide called on the Government to have the courage to make bold decisions to reduce our suicide rate.

But our primary aim was to start a national conversation, and that's happened. We have heard parents discussing the issue with their teenage children over Sunday lunch; we have been contacted by individuals and organisations working in this space to thank us for raising the issue; we have been overwhelmed with the tales of hope and sadness - and sometimes both at once - from our readers.

All this suggests strongly that New Zealanders are mature enough to tackle this problem together.

Whichever party is in power after September 23 must play a key role, but the current Government is correct to acknowledge that if things need to change, we must all play a part.

The Herald will continue its coverage in this area. It is, quite simply, a matter of life and death.


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 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.