A Labour politician has opened up about her family's struggle with suicide and her own experiences battling depression, saying New Zealand's "she'll-be-right" culture is killing people and more open conversation is needed.

Today is Suicide Awareness Day and this morning the Government announced it would be launching a suicide prevention office to curb New Zealand's worsening suicide figures.

Suicide rates reached their highest levels on record in the year to July, with 685 deaths in the past year and a particularly sharp rise among youth, Māori and Pacific Island people.

Labour list MP Kiri Allan this week took to social media to talk about how the suicide of her niece, who was in her first year of university, a year ago had affected their family.


"This last year, you sort of look on at everybody that you love, like all my family, and see how much the hurt is, it's so deep. And it's so layered over so many different parts," she said.

"That loss will be felt not just for years, but for lifetimes and maybe generations. Everybody reflects, feels, carries guilty for a really long time. Maybe forever."

Allan told reporters why she wanted to share her family's story.

"Maybe we could have spoken up a little bit earlier and said: 'Hey mate. It's alright, it's okay to talk. And that's what hopefully sharing our stories now, hopefully that has an impact," she said.

"A part of us standing up, speaking out, is if we can share our stories, and it liberates just one other person or just one other family, well then hopefully it was all worth it."

Allan said New Zealanders needed to speak more about their mental health to dispel stigma.

"I think in New Zealand we've got a real culture and there's a real stigma around she'll be right, toughen up, we don't talk about that stuff. But, actually, I think that culture is literally killing us," she said.

"She will be right. She will be right if we can have chat about it. She'll be right if we can be honest about it."


Alan, a former lawyer, also opened up about her own battle with the "black dog", saying while she wasn't an expert on depression, she wanted to explain the experience to those with relatives suffering from it.

"I didn't talk about it for years. I was diagnosed with stuff when I was 26 ... I was one of those folks who didn't believe in mental health and depression," she said.

"But as it turned out that wasn't necessarily a mantra that was quite that true for me and I got some help years ago."

She encouraged those with friends and family of those suffering depression to lend their support.

"One of best responses I got from one of my mates was: shot bro. It's all good. Just let me know what you need," she said.


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.


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