There's a hidden statistic when it comes to suicides and it's the thousands of New Zealanders who each year are left devastated and asking the question: What more could I have done?

If only they had known, they lament, they surely could have done something to help.

But usually in the lead up to taking one's own life there's the dark world of depression, usually only inhabited by the person with suicidal thoughts. It's time we as a nation talked more openly about the issue which last year claimed a record 569 lives, almost double the road toll.

To most of us it's inconceivable that in a country like ours so many would prefer to be dead.

Comedian Mike King, who has often talked about his own battle with depression, was quoted as saying that our approach to suicide prevention would be greatly improved if we spent more time in educating ordinary Kiwis on their attitudes. The impact of what is seen by some as off-the-cuff remarks, which are in reality judgmental and cowardly, should never be underestimated, King says.

The fact that so many New Zealanders would rather die and leave their families behind rather than openly talk about their problems and be judged by other people is an indictment on our society.

The young, aged between 15 and 24 are over represented in the grim statistics and so too are the elderly. For the young, cyber bullying is a factor along with bullying in general. For the elderly it can be loneliness and just the process of growing old.

As Mike King aptly observed, the only way we are going to start getting on top of these appalling figures, for youth especially, is to stop giving the youth our answers to their problems, we have to empower them to identify the problem and come up with the solution.

It's incredible that many of us, myself included, have known, respected and loved several people who've died by their own hand which makes that hidden statistic all the harder to deal with.

Over the weekend it was World Suicide Prevention Day and we should all take time to reflect on the theme for this year - Connect, Communicate, Care.