NZ suicide rates lower

New Zealand has had a major problem with deaths by suicide – they have risen to nearly double the road toll. There is a slight glimmer of hope, with the number and rate of suicides dropping slightly in the year to June 2020, both the lowest of the last three years.

There was unsubstantiated claims (via social media) that the Covid pandemic and lockdowns would increase the number of suicides but that appears to be false.

Stuff: Chief Coroner opposes rumours suicide rate increased during Covid-19 lockdown

Reports that New Zealand’s suicide rate increased during Covid-19 lockdown have been opposed by the Chief Coroner.

Judge Deborah Marshall noted the rumours – which were spread on social media by someone claiming to be in contact with a police officer – were “incorrect”.

“I can confirm based on the provisional numbers I have, this is incorrect,” she explained.

She labelled the reports of a reported rise in suicide rates in Alert Level 4 as “concerning”.

“The provisional trend suggests the suicide rate was lower during the Alert Level 4 period than the 33 days prior to it (22 February – 25 March 2020).

“The suicide rate during Alert Level 4 was also lower than the rate for the same period from 2008 to 2020.”

New Zealand Police and the Mental Health Foundation previously said there was no evidence to support such claims. The Foundation slammed the rumour as false and potentially dangerous.

The rumour stemmed from a tweet that claimed an unnamed police officer informed the account holder of a massive increase in suicides across the country. The tweet and account was later deleted.

Police Assistant Commissioner Sandy Venables told Stuff earlier in the month there was no official data released yet, and the number of mental health call-outs appeared steady.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said there was “absolutely no truth” to the rumour and that it was “totally irresponsible and untrue”.

The statistics July-June (provisional, it can take coroners some time to determine causes of death) with rate per 100,000 in brackets:

  • 2007/2008 – 540 (12.20)
  • 2008/2009 – 531 (12.04)
  • 2009/2010 – 541 (12.16)
  • 2010/2011 – 558 (12.65)
  • 2011/2012 – 547 (12.34)
  • 2012/2013 – 541 (12.10)
  • 2013/2014 – 529 (11.73)
  • 2014/2015 – 564 (12.27)
  • 2015/2016 – 579 (12.33)
  • 2016/2017 – 606 (12.64)
  • 2017/2018 – 668 (13.67)
  • 2018/2019 – 685 (13.93)
  • 2019/2020 – 654 (13.01)

Source: Provisional figures – August 2020 [PDF, 880 KB]

Chief Coroner Releases Annual Provision Suicide Figures:

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall today released the annual provisional suicide statistics, which show the provisional suicide rate is at its lowest in three years.

In the year to 30 June 2020, 654 people died by suicide, compared to 685 the year before – a decrease of 31 deaths, and a drop in the suicide rate from 13.93 deaths per 100,000 to 13.01.

“While it is encouraging to see the suspected suicide rate and number drop for the past year, it’s important to remember that there are still more than 650 families who have lost someone in tragic circumstances,” Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall says.

“My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died by suspected suicide in the past year.”

There was a decrease in the number of young people dying by suspected suicide, particularly in the 15-19 age range (down from 73 to 59) and the 20-24 age range (down from 91 to 60). Both rates decreased from 23.14 to 18.69 and from 26.87 to 17.77 respectively.

However, there was an increase in suspected suicides in the 80-84 age range, with 12 more people dying by suicide in the past year (18) than the year before (6). The rate increased from 6.49 to 19.48.

The Māori and Pacific Island suspected suicide rates both decreased over the past year, from 21.78 to 20.24 and from 8.91 to 7.07 respectively. The European rate also dropped from 13.02 to 12.08.

However, the Asian rate went up from 5.09 to 7.91 – an increase of 20 deaths.

“Throughout this year there has been unhelpful and irresponsible public commentary on the effect COVID-19 would have on the suicide rate,” Judge Marshall says. “During the first lockdown period I said it was unhelpful to release figures for such a short time frame, as it is nearly impossible to draw sound conclusions, nor do I believe such public discourse is helpful to people in distress.

“I’m encouraged by the work the Suicide Prevention Office has started and for the reliable, strong and hope-filled voice that director Carla na Nagara has added to the wider public discourse.”

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  1. Relevant to this: Have Covid-19 conspiracy theories evolved?

    Although some commentators have expressed concern about a surge in conspiracy theories after the reemergence of Covid-19 in New Zealand, new research from Te Pūnaha Matatini shows the prevalence of misinformation on social media has remained stable since February.

    The analysis of tweets sent from New Zealand over the course of the pandemic shows the percentage of posts linking to reliable news sources has been remarkably stable – in the area of 85 to 87 percent – through New Zealand’s first lockdown, the easing of restrictions, and the advent of a second lockdown in Auckland. However, mainstream media coverage of conspiracy theories did spike after the August outbreak began.

    What has changed is the tenor of the conspiracy theories themselves. Early false postings on social media was more likely to be misinformation (“false information that people didn’t create with the intention to hurt others”) while the material in August was more likely to be disinformation (“false information created with the intention of harming a person, group, or organisation, or even a country”), Kate Hannah, one of the study’s authors, told Newsroom.

    Conspiracies are mostly crap spread via social media, often for political purposes.

  2. John J Harrison

     /  9th September 2020

    Cannot understand Venables comment.
    How difficult is it to tabulate daily job sheets and provide the statistics to prove the naysayers wrong ?
    I view with a jaundiced eye her comment “ there was no official data released yet, and the number of mental call – outs APPEARED steady.”
    Being a sceptic of officialdom and their verbal gymnastics I say the police are merely covering their backside with non comments until after the election.
    They are the sole keepers of up to date statistics – not the coroners who, as has already been stated can take up to 18 months to determine cause of death.

    • “to prove the naysayers wrong”

      The statistics prove the social media claims as wrong. I have searched and can’t find any evidence from police job sheets. There appears to be no evidence, just claims that if something was collated and published it might prove what appears to be nothing more than a conspiracy theory type claim.

    • duperez

       /  9th September 2020

      Maybe the jaundiced eye is in those with political motives around suicide figures.

      They want suicide figures out which show a tsunami of suicides. They could then batter the government with them, saying the handling of covid-19 has driven people to terrible desperation.

      Not having figures gives scope for conspiracy and corruption theories. No need for simple verbal gymnastics when scuttlebutt, insinuation and plain BS are currency.

  3. Brad B

     /  9th September 2020

    What the numbers say is that youth suicide is down but Adult suicide for aged over 24 years Suicide is up. This older group is the age group most affected by Covid 19.

    • Duker

       /  9th September 2020

      “youth suicide is down but Adult suicide for aged over 24 years Suicide is up”
      They dont say that at all, but do say
      ’80-84 age range, with 12 more people dying by suicide in the past year (18)”
      The numbers are so low ( 6 last year ) that it seems they jump around a bit

      Remember these are full year figures – 19/20 , the numbers for first 6 months which are more in the covid period were even better than last years first 6 months.

      Click to access 2020-Annual-Provisional-Suicide-Statistics.pdf

      See trend line by month since 2007 to June 2020

      The jump in all suicides in the last 5 years I think can be linked to higher use of P

      • Jack

         /  9th September 2020

        Keeping away from P must be one of the greatest achievements for survivors. Very brave to break that vicious cycle – not for the faint hearted

  4. This is pure anecdata (I know, I know) but those in the GP community I know have basically said lockdown has done wonders for people’s mental health.

  5. Blazer

     /  9th September 2020

    Suicide is a side effect of the ‘American Dream’.

    • John J Harrison

       /  9th September 2020

      Blazer, congratulations on your most inane comment to date.

      • Blazer

         /  9th September 2020

        Here’s an example…Japanese MMT is the template for the West these days….

        ‘Suicide in Japan
        In Japan, suicide borders on a crisis level, though the government has been active in intervention to decrease the risk of suicide among vulnerable populations. It is the leading cause of death in men among the ages of 20-44 and for women among the ages of 15 to 34.

        Japanese men are twice as likely to commit suicide as their female counterparts, particularly after a divorce. Of special concern is suicide among men who have recently lost their jobs and are no longer able to provide for their families. People are expected to stay married with a single person and stay on a single job for their entire life and the pressure of this expectation can make a divorce or job loss feel like a failure.’

        Pressure to ‘succeed’ is a cornerstone of the ‘American Dream’.

        ‘The lowest suicide rates in the world are concentrated in the Caribbean Islands of the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda. Suicide is almost unheard of in each of these countries, with Barbados and Antigua And Barbuda reporting 0.8 and 0.5 suicides per 100k, respectively.’

    • duperez

       /  9th September 2020

      Maybe using methamphetamine is too Blazer. If you’re going to get into complex interrelated sociological, economic and psychological areas though your perspectives might be considered inane here.
      Better go to the beach and converse with the rocks. Give them all names. They’ll be more likely to get it.

  6. Blazer

     /  9th September 2020


    ‘Last week, the Veterans Administration admitted that as many as 20 American veterans commit suicide every single day.’

    • Jack

       /  9th September 2020

      B, it says in there that the greater the exposure to traumatic events, the more likelihood of psychological injury. That makes obvious sense for those involved with combat.
      I think Kiwis are combating sneaky cults. If a fellow can name those that are bothering him, then he can command his thoughts and be free.

  7. Jack

     /  9th September 2020

    Can never get my head around how the weaponising of mental health is common place. No wonder we have suicides – and arguments about suicide.

    Some gentle souls can never accept that life (people) can be so cruel. There’s instances of that here at times. That’s why I sometimes attempt to clean it up – you never know who might be shattered at any time, nor who might be wanting to contribute/challenge but feels too shy. On the other hand, hate speech laws would aggravate collective mental health.

    Someone here suggested that the use of ‘cult’ is hateful. Right there is proof that proponents of laws against hate speech are stuck in cult. Exposing cult is to spread hope and encourage kindness – leading to prosperity for many.

    I like to see social media non echo chambered and un-chummied. That’s good for mental health. One suicide is too many whatever the statistics and it takes collective unseen effort to be of help. From that perspective I am of the belief that talking about the statistics of suicide in social settings is unhelpful.

    My mental health got on tenter hooks because of long running, incessant church abuse. It helps my equilibrium to put out there my suggestions re carrying one’s cross and belonging to Church and the concept of cult – then to cope throughout the flak.

    I am certain that suicides are occurring because the churches are on their cult slides.

    When I say (Kitty) that I belong to Church, that’s for the sake of my mental health. As Blazer says, it’s all ……about…….me🍻….yawn, and he’d be right! As for Maureen, I think that’s pure vitriol from an intelligent mind – nasty. I am very unimpressed by that, to say the least. Also disappointed that no one (seemingly) comes to my rescue, but hey – forgiven. Perhaps it’s the only way forward for someone as cranky as me.

    It’s that feeling like an alien/not belonging/no hope at all that leads to thoughts of suicide. Some people will never understand how that feels (lucky them). But there are many others who do, at least at some stage, perhaps a majority – who knows?

    I could have skipped this post and left the discussions entirely to the peripheral, but that wouldn’t be loving, nor Kiwi – would it?

    • Jack

       /  9th September 2020

      An individual feels very mentally unstable when it’s time to “give my life over to the Lord Jesus Christ”. Judging by past comments I suppose that this is the manner of which people here presume I advocate the Christian walk. It’s not.

      Being a Christian in NZ is extremely easy. I don’t go in for those mentally unstable ways of ‘being a true born again Christian’. And forget about that extra special, ‘being filled with the holy spirit’! You’re either a Christian or you’re not and carrying your cross is the most pleasant aspect of your life. Trouble is, the churches have been telling it wrong. Christianity is a cult. Collective mental health will improve if we have honest discussions re religion.
      I’m a Christian and I have no religion. I belong to Church

      • Jack

         /  9th September 2020

        A joke at my expense Blazer – I was so upset by some of your past comments that I emailed PG and said I was certain you are a commie. I said that only a commie would cause upsets between Kiwis. Your comments, and others latching on, spiralled me into despair – my imagination ran wild!
        Now, let’s hope that PG doesn’t delete this comment, otherwise everyone will presume that he thinks the word ‘cult’ is offensive or that I’m trying to identify people. (For that matter, Kiwis should boldly expose communist infiltration.)

        All jokes are on me – that’s how life goes while escaping from cult. The trick is to wear them, but not allow them to be against you. Because when you’re escaping from cult, it’s vital to your life. Nobody wants to plod through life only being a statistic

  8. I am more concerned about Blazer’s illnatured personal and unfounded abuse and his malice than I am about his being or not being a Communist. He is as entitled to his political views as anyone else is; he is not entitled to slander and insult others.

    • Jack

       /  9th September 2020

      Christians are supposed to correct each other, not those of the world

      • His political views are his business.

        His vicious personal attacks, smears and slanders are unacceptable.

        • Blazer

           /  9th September 2020


          • John J Harrison

             /  9th September 2020

            Kitty, treat the inane comments with the contempt they deserve.

            • Jack

               /  9th September 2020

              It’s fair for Blazer to ask for evidence. Innocent until proven guilty.
              Personally, I was surprised Kitty brought up those things against B when this was ‘my’ thread and those are the things I experienced from Kitty and Maureen- “vicious personal attacks, smears and slanders”.
              Blazer’s were always just silly and I knew I should ignore them. I couldn’t, so I got on top of them instead, same as how I rose above Kitty’s and Maureen’s false accusations.
              (This is my response to Mr H jumping in.)

              My point was that Blazer put himself on the outer with inane comments – that was one thing which I could ignore, but the usage of him by others against me seemed crazy and un Kiwi. Cult actually.

              You know how I feel about cult

  9. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th September 2020

    Just heard of someone suicidal up here facing a two month wait to see a DHB mental health professional.

    • Jack

       /  11th September 2020

      We can support one another from the cradle to the grave and when our political systems fail there should be someone in community to fill the gap.

      To anyone reading who contemplates suicide –
      Don’t, because it’s only selfishness. You are convinced that you are a nuisance or totally alone or dispensable or an absolute failure or without a shred of hope. These notions feel ethereal peaceful to you, but it’s a lie. If you suicide, you die selfish.

      All those good character traits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc have worldly counterparts. If you are mulling over suicide and feel peaceful about that – it’s a counterfeit peace, a deceit, a lie.

      There are worldly ways of combatting your desire to end the pain. If you can think of a harmless thing, then do that. But if such pleasures no longer check the downward spiral, you might try this –

      Talk to Jesus Christ. He is a real man from a real time in history and he lives today. He died on the cross for you and paved the way to friendship with God. Jesus Christ is my God but it doesn’t matter if he is not yours.

      Ask Jesus what is your cross to bear and then do something practical according to whatever normal and good idea pops into your head. Do it with this attitude – “I’m doing this for the body of Christ, not myself”.

      Don’t worry if you know you’re not sincere. Nobody is totally genuine. Just try a little to do that thing for Jesus and He will do the rest. I promise He will.

      You only need a minuscule of faith in Jesus Christ to belong. He never expects you to give yourself completely. As a suicidal tempted individual you know how impossible it is to give your all. Your cross to bear involves a spiritual talent, carried out in practical ways, and you will lose the suicidal thoughts if you carry it.

      Don’t go to the churches to learn about carrying your cross. They will make it worse. Just go directly to Jesus and make a decision, however small, to belong to Church. Just do it this day, knowing that there is no commitment required of you tomorrow.


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