New Zealand has recorded its second consecutive decrease in annual suicides, new data has revealed, although experts say it will need to continue for it to be definitely trending downwards.
In the year to June 30, 2021, 607 people died by suspected suicide, compared to 628 the year before – a decrease of 21 deaths, and a drop in the suspected suicide rate from 11.8 deaths per 100,000 to 11.6.
Among Māori populations there was a decrease in suspected suicides from 19.8 per 100,000 people to 15.8, but for Pacific populations there was an increase in the suspected suicide rate from 7.2 to 9.6.
More broadly, there was a decrease in suspected suicides for females and males in the 15-24 age range, from 12.6 to 11.4 among females and 22.7 to 22.2 in males.
“The suspected suicide rate and number has declined, which is encouraging. But it’s important to remember the many families who have lost someone, and I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died by suspected suicide in the past year,” chief coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said on Monday.
Marshall said it was difficult to understand if the suicide rate was on a definite downward slope, as numbers could fluctuate year-to-year, but said it was "heartening" to see the figures show less deaths overall.
Director of the Suicide Prevention Office, Carla na Nagara, also acknowledged the tragedy reflected in the data and said it would take more than two years of decreases to establish a trend.
“While it is encouraging that the numbers of suspected suicides are lower than last year, there are still far too many whānau, families and communities who have lost loved ones, and I extend my deepest sympathies to them,” na Nagara said.
It is the second consecutive year numbers have decreased, but na Nagara said the evidence showed there was a need to see a decline over at least a five-year period before a meaningful downward trend in suicide numbers and rates could be established.
“The Suicide Prevention Office will continue its efforts, alongside the chief coroner and communities all around Aotearoa, to address the complex issues that contribute to our suicide rates. We all have a part to play to prevent similar deaths from occurring.”