Jacinda Ardern calls new suicide figures 'sobering'; self-inflicted deaths hit new 12-month high

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has labelled today's provisional 12 month suicide figures as "sobering".

The figures, released by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall, show suicides in New Zealand have jumped for the fourth year in a row and are at their highest level since statistics were first recorded in 2007/08.

Placards about suicide

In total, 668 people died by suicide in the year to June 30, up from 606 this time last year.

"It is a tragedy that so many New Zealanders took their lives in a single year," Ms Ardern said this afternoon.

"Behind each of those statistics is not just a life lost, but a devastated family and a shattered community.

"It is critically important that people – wherever they are in the country – can access help when they need it.

"We know we need to do more to make sure that happens.

"We must keep reminding each other that it's not wrong or weak to talk about how we are feeling, but vital to our mental health. Sadly there is still stigma around doing that."

In the first year suicide deaths were counted in 2007/08, 540 people were recorded as dying by suicide.

Health Minister Dr David Clark said mental health was now a priority for the Government.

"In the Coalition Government's first 100 days we responded to the public call for an Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

"I gave the Inquiry a strong direction by ensuring its terms of reference included an examination of current work on suicide prevention and support for those close to someone who has taken their own life.

"The Inquiry was also given deliberately wide terms of reference so that it could look at everything from the drivers of mental health issues to the provision of mental health services and the wider community response to these issues.

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"These are incredibly complex and difficult issues. No one should pretend there are easy answers – but I am confident the Inquiry will come back with robust and far-reaching recommendations when it reports at the end of October."

Chief Coroner calls suicide figures 'a tragedy'

In releasing the figures today, Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall described it as "a tragedy to see the number of self-inflicted deaths increase again".

"We need to keep talking about how to recognise the signs that someone may want to take their own life. If someone expresses thoughts and feelings about suicide, take them seriously," Ms Marshall said.

Part of the role of the Coroner is to make comments or recommendations to help prevent similar deaths in the future.

"As Coroners, we look into each case of suspected suicide to try and shed light on what factors prompted it.

"Recommendations made in the last year include facilitating better information sharing between health care professionals, ensuring that adequate and up-to-date training in suicide risk assessment is undertaken by counsellors and psychotherapists and making policy changes to how mental health referrals are handled by District Health Boards."

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) said it was deeply saddened by today's figures.

"Today we will take some time to reflect on the loss of each person who died by suicide this year," MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson said.

"I know from my own experience that these are deeply personal tragedies and my deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to all those who have lost someone to suicide.

"If you know someone who is grieving, reach out to them today.

"Check in and ask how they are and how you can help. News like this can be especially overwhelming if you have recently lost someone to suicide."

Today's figures follow an outpouring of grief this week over the death of well known TVNZ journalist and news anchor Greg Boyed, who died in Switzerland earlier in the week after a battle with depression.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7)

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

Safe to talk National Sexual Harm Helpline - 0800 044 334 - www.safetotalk.nz

Victim Support National 24 Hour Helpline 0800 842 846 - www.victimsupport.org.nz

Rape Crisis National 24 Hour Helpline 0800 883300

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.