September 10th is the official UN World Suicide Prevention Day.
Unfortunately, New Zealand has one of the worst suicide rates in the Western World, with the figures increasing year-on-year.
After a sharp rise in recent years, the Government is stepping up its attempts to reduce the number of deaths, but there’s a long way to go.
The troubling statistics
In the year to June 30, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year.
In the year 2017 - 2018, the suicide rate was 13.67 deaths per 100,000 people. That's since increased to 13.93 in 2018 - 2019.
The youth suicide rate is also up, particularly in the 15 - 19 age range, with 20 more deaths by suicide than the year before. Eighty-four young New Zealanders between the ages of 10 and 19 died by suicide in the 2018 - 2019 period. Eleven of them were under the age of 15.
Ninety-one Kiwis aged 20 - 24 died by suicide, 15 more than the previous year.
There was also an increase in the suicide rate among Māori and Pacific people. The Māori suicide rate increased from 23.72 to 28.23 per 100,000 - there were 169 deaths in the 2018 - 2019 period, up from 142.
The Pacific suicide rate went from 7.77 to 11.49, from 23 to 34 deaths.
Suicide affects everyone
Suicide destroys families.
For both those who lose someone to suicide and those who have attempted themselves, the impact is profound. And often, these experiences overlap.
For those who have felt the loss of a loved one to suicide, they have a higher risk of developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behaviors themselves.
The semicolon tattoo was popularized by Amy Bleuel and is dedicated to the prevention of suicide through raising public awareness of depression and equipping communities and individuals with tools to promote mental health.
Having struggled with depression, addiction, and difficult personal circumstances, particularly after being raped and her father died by suicide, Amy wanted something to commemorate her survival.
In 2013, she founded the faith-based nonprofit Project Semicolon, which chose a semicolon as a symbol because it’s “used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Where to find help and support
If you are having a difficult time, and find yourself needing to talk to someone, please use one of the following numbers:
Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
Samaritans - 0800 726 666
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)