by Greta Yeoman
To talk about suicide or not?
The debate has raised its head again, after the chief coroner reported 668 New Zealanders took their own lives in the year to June.
While a representative from AMPSS 101 (Addictions, Mental Health Peer Support Services) in Timaru said the “taboo” of discussing suicide could be contributing to the ever-rising number of New Zealanders committing suicide, South Canterbury District Health Board suicide prevention co-ordinator Annette Beautrais disagreed.
The South Canterbury region recorded the lowest number of deaths in the country, five, down from seven last year, but nationally the suicide rate has increased from 606 to 668.
The figures, between July 2017 and June 2018, showed that while South Canterbury had a lower death toll, to the north, the wider Canterbury region had the largest number of deaths in the country.
There were 87 deaths in Canterbury, the largest number in the district since records began in 2007.
Nationally, the largest number of people dying by suicide were aged 20-24, followed by the 45-49 age group.
Kiwi males accounted for 475 deaths, compared to 193 females.
Dr Beautrais said the “sheer volume” of media stories following the release of data showing there were 606 suicides during the previous 12-month period would have contributed to the increase in deaths.
“We predicted this rise.”
She also thought publicising mental health helplines alongside media stories might have “weakened” the helplines’ impact.
The South Canterbury District Health Board is hosting a public event from 9am-1pm on September 14 for World Suicide Prevention Day.
Dr Beautrais emphasised the event, being held at Timaru Hospital’s Learning Hub, was not about “raising awareness” of suicide but about prevention.
Guest speakers included Monique Gale, from Zero Suicide, and Lifeline Otago’s Brian Lowe.
“We predicted this rise.”
– Dr Beautrais
Representatives from South Canterbury organisations, including the YMCA, Kensington’s TACT team, the police and St John, would also speak about the work they were doing around suicide prevention.
“[We want] to encourage everyone to learn how to respond if people are at risk.”
However, the AMPSS 101 representative, who wanted to be referred to only as Amanda, said not talking about suicide publicly could be leading to an increase in suicides across the country.
She said while people were often concerned about talking about suicide in case it “planted a seed” in someone’s mind, for those who were contemplating taking their lives”that seed’s already there”.
Healthline 800 611-116
Lifeline Aotearoa 800 543-354
Suicide Crisis Helpline 508 828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans 800 726-666
Alcohol Drug Helpline 800 787-797
General mental health inquiries 800 443-366
The Depression Helpline 800 111-757
Youthline 800 376-633 txt 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s Up (for 5 to 18-year-olds; 1pm-11pm) 800 942-8787
Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14; 4pm-6pm weekdays)800 543-754 (0800 kidsline)
The report released by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall showed that while self-inflicted deaths in South Canterbury had decreased from seven to five in the latest 12-month period, the national suicide toll had increased from 606 to 668.
While the number of South Canterbury residents taking their own lives remained small, the number seeking mental health support was increasing.
Amanda said she was seeing between 25 and 30 people a day at AMPSS 101, but was “pleased” people were using community services.
It was a “huge step” for many to decide to access a mental health service.
“[I want people to know] that it’s OK to talk about thoughts and feelings.”
While other mental health services had several boxes to tick before they could help a client, AMPSS 101 did not.
“Their crisis is critical to them.”
To register for the free SCDHB event on September 14, email Dr Beautrais at email@example.com or call (03) 687-2192.
Mike King back for Hope Walk
The Timaru Hope Walk will be held on Sunday, September 9.
The walk will start at 10am, at the Church St entrance of Centennial Park and finish at the sound shell on Caroline Bay.
Mental health advocate Mike King will attend the event.