Five of the country's district health boards have posted their highest ever annual suicide rates since records began 12 years ago.
Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall on Monday released the alarming figure of 685 in the year to June 30.
That's 17 more than in the previous 12 months, when there were 668.
Waitematā, Waikato, Whanganui, Hawke's Bay and Capital Coast DHBs all posted their highest suicide numbers, while Lakes District DHB equalled its 2010/11 record of 23 suicides, more than doubling its figure of nine from last year.
Eighty-seven people died in the patch of the Waitemata DHB - which also has the largest population. It was up from the 64 who died in 2018/19.
Waikato DHB recorded 63 deaths, up from its second highest of 59 last year. It was the third ranked DHB for suicides overall.
There were 38 deaths in the Hawke's Bay, up from last year's high of 29.
Canterbury DHB had a slight drop down to 74 from 87 last year, but was still the second highest of all DHBs in the country.
Whanganui DHB recorded 16 deaths, three more than its previous high in 2015/16.
Capital Coast was up 1, to 41, from its high last year of 40.
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Mo Neville, Chair of Waikato Suicide Prevention and Postvention Advisory Group, said the majority of people who died by suicide did not have a diagnosable mental health issue.
"Many of the factors that contribute to very high levels of emotional distress are things that we may all experience at some point in our lives. As a country we need to ensure that people of working age have meaningful employment or training and that when someone is experiencing emotional distress, there is a clear pathway to accessible support for themselves and their whānau."
The Waikato DHB district had a larger proportion of people living in areas of high deprivation.
"While our population is getting proportionately older, the percentage of people who are less than 25 years is slightly higher than New Zealand as a whole."
It had developed a number of initiatives to combat the issue including Let's Talk Wellbeing, funded bereavement counselling, community-based training in the identification of risk, and the holding of a recent youth services workshop called "Let's get connected" bringing many social support agencies together.
A spokeswoman for the Waitematā DHB said its numbers needed to be seen in context - it had the largest population in its patch of 630,000 people, 70,000 more people than the next-biggest DHB.
"Based on the Waitematā DHB population, the suicide rate is 13.8 suicides per 100,000 population, which is below the national average of 13.93.
"Caution should be exercised in interpreting a year-on-year variation as a trend.
"Waitematā DHB serves a rapidly growing population that increased 4.83 per cent in 2017/2018. This is above the national population growth of 4.34 per cent in the same period."
The DHB collaborated with organisations like the Mental Health Foundation, Le Va, Lifeline, Youthline and other community organisations to facilitate suicide prevention training within the community.
"There is no single reason why someone makes this decision. Suicide is complex and depends on numerous factors: early life experiences, employment status, mental health, economic and health status, relationships and much more."
A Whanganui District Health Board spokesman said the 16 deaths were "extremely distressing".
"The statistics for Whanganui reflect the national trend of an increase in such deaths, and Whanganui DHB shares the concern of all New Zealanders over this issue."
The DHB was looking at the organisation of its mental health services and in June launched a suicide prevention strategy being led by Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitikei Ruapehu.
The spokesman added that not all suicides came to the attention of the DHB or involved its health services.
Lakes District DHB acting chief executive Gary Lees said the board was "deeply saddened" by the numbers and said the DHB still had "a long way to go to address this very serious issue".
Meanwhile, mental health advocate Mike King wants Kiwis to start looking after each other more and says the secret is helping people battle their inner critic.
The New Zealander of the Year also slammed the current "monetisation" of mental health, and those trying to make a quick buck off people's poor state of mind.
He said people, including employers, needed to change their strategy around workplace behaviours and instead of focusing on what employees are doing wrong, remind them of what they're doing right and how valued they are.
"Ninety-nine per cent of what we all do every day is perfect, but nobody cares about what we are doing right, we're always focused on the 1 per cent that can go wrong.
"When you are constantly criticised for not doing one thing, and offered no praise for the 99 per cent of what we do right, you go home feeling unloved, you're feeling undervalued, you're feeling put down and you're feeling frustrated."
The reason people were taking their own lives was because they felt disconnected, he said.
"Their inner critics have told them that they're useless, they're hopeless, and nobody cares so what's the point in hanging around.
"They're disconnected from the world and think nobody cares. Guess what, the solution to disconnection isn't money. The solution to disconnection is connection."
Karen McLeay, acting chief executive for Victim Support, said: "For every suicide, around five people affected will need support from Victim Support. These include bereaved families, friends and witnesses.
"Suicide is more than losing someone, there is a deep shock to your whole worldview.
"A lot of our support is in the immediate aftermath, but support can extend to weeks and months after the death."
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