YOUTH SUICIDE IN NEW ZEALAND
Compiled by Nicola Molloy
How many people are committing suicide?
NZ has about 510 suicides annually, with about one third in Auckland. Every three days there is a suicide in Auckland. In the year 2000 in Auckland, 700 youth attempted to kill themselves. In 1999, 1054 people just between 15-24 attempted suicide. Someone in NZ commits suicide every sixteen hours.
Figures for actual suicides:
2001: 499; 2000: 458; 1999: 514; 1998: 577; 1997: 561
The rate has risen sharply since 1950, when there were 4.6 deaths per 100,000 and in 1999 it was 6.4. deaths.
The last 15 years has seen an increase in female youth suicide. In 1985 it accounted for 20% of youth suicides, but by 1999 it was 31%
Although most successful suicides are male, female suicide attempts are almost twice those of males.
In 1999/2000 63% of all admissions to hospital for suicide attempts were female. www.nzhis.govt.nz
In a twelve day period from Jan 1 1998 10 Aucklanders took their life, with eight under 30 and all but one male. But in Christchurch only 1 person committed suicide.
In Auckland there are on average 120 suicides a year, with eighteen in Invercargil. Suicide now equals or exceeds road traffic injury, as cause of injury related deaths.
Japan has approx. 100 suicides a day, or 85,000 a year. Finland has the highest suicide rate in the world. By age 16, one in four females and one in two males will have attempted suicide in NZ.
Age of suicide victims
Rates of NZ teenage male suicides are less than half those of age 20-39. The WHO says worldwide males between 20-24 commit the most suicides.
For females, suicide increases to age 24 and remains hight to age 45 and then shows a consistent decline thereafter. The rates for female youths aged 15-19 and 20-24 are similar. However both genders again commit suicide more after age 60.
Ethnicity and Suicide
Before 1995 ethicity in suicides werenít recorded. Only an assessment of Maori blood was recorded. But revision of data collection methods help the victimís family give true ethnicity. This is thought to have underestimated Maori suicides pre-1995. From 1996-1999 Maoris have the highest rates of suicide (for both male and female) by a factor of one and a half times.
Methods of Suicide
Methods vary with gender. Successful suicides are more male because during 1980-1999 use mostly hanging, followed by vehicle exhaust fumes and firearms. But in the last 2 decades firearms have only accounted for 11% of male suicides, with hnaging accounting for about 65% male suicides.
Whereas females mostly choose self poisoning, followed by hanging and car exhaust fumes. In 1980 self poisoning was top but by 1999 it accounted for about 8%. However hanging increased 5 fold and accounted for 85% of suicides by 1999.
Most of the hanging by both genders is by those aged 15-24.
Reasons for Suicide
Officially the reasons for rapid increase in male youth and more recent, female suicides are not known. But itís been suggested that it may be the effects of economic restructuring on the life opportunities of the young, especially males.
However individually the connections are found to be relatively modest.
In Auckland, the unemployed and sickness beneficiaries were the most frequent suicides. It is thought that Maori male suicides are from social and cultural inequalities.
In the EU reasons for a rapid increase in youth suicides are thought to be from: Depression; Increase of alcohol and psychoactive drugs;
Role of anti-social behavior;
Suicidal models in family, intimate circles and mass media;
Increase in family conflict;
Decline in parental support, with family structural changes; Extended period of social dependency during adolesence.
Not a lot has been invested in suicide prevention by the govt. Public and policy attention in NZ has tended to focus just on prevention programmes for school children.
However, school children constitute only 15% of suicides, with 2/3 amongst 19-24 year olds. With the greatest risk from age 20-45, though no corresponding prevention programs have been invested.
Health officials are underspending on psychiatric services despite thousands of young people missing care. $7 million remained underspent according to an audit. The Health budget was given $6 billion, but only $49 million was spent.
Who is helping?
The govt. is undermining suicide prevention efforts with an ill-conceived backlash by putting political correctness above saving lives. In May 2003 three govt. departments directly interferred with efforts of privately funded groups to get young people to talk through important issues of life and death and seek help. This was done without consultation with these private agencies and without evidence. The govt, suggested that some programmes were harmful and could increase suicide risks.
Yellow Ribbon and Project Hope were put under suspicion and the govt. withdrew money for the Yellow Ribbon Trust suicide prevention campaign, who give out cards saying: Itís OK to receive help. Yet Auckland University commended Yellow Ribbonís schoolyard training.
The govt. asked them not to use the word suicide and they lost about $400,000 from the Fight for Life Boxing fundraising campaigne. But Youthline phone counselling got money instead. In Auckland alone in 2000, 700 young people attempted to kill themselves. But the govt. wants to put up a wall of silence/denial.
SOSAD is an online resource that gives links to all help organizations in NZ.
Out of the Blue for depression info
Suicide Prevention Information Service NZ (SPINZ)
Other groups are: Project K, sponsored by Vodaphone