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Suicide prevention in New Zealand 

Suicide prevention in New Zealand
Suicide prevention in New Zealand

Annette Beautrais

and Gregory Luke Larkin

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date: 05 July 2022

Suicide rates and suicide prevention emerged as important fi n de siècle social issues in New Zealand in the 1990s; they continue to be focal policy and public health concerns in New Zealand today and for the foreseeable future. This attention has been stimulated by two lines of evidence. First, international comparisons suggest that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of youth (15–24 age group) suicide in the developed world. Comparisons between countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) consistently show New Zealand to share top ranking with Finland and Ireland (Ministry of Health 2006a) for male youth suicide rates, but New Zealand’s high rates of female youth suicide are without peer. Secondly, suicide rates increased markedly among young New Zealanders from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, garnering national attention, yet fuelling public misperception that youth suicides account for most suicides in the country. Indeed, these data led the New Zealand government’s early suicide prevention efforts to target youth explicitly. Forgotten, however, is the plight of those at highest risk: adults in later life. The reality is that youth suicides account for only 20 per cent of all suicides in New Zealand every year. Suicides in adult males account for half of all suicides, and the changing, ageing, population demographics suggest that numbers and rates of suicide in older adults will significantly increase in the next decade. If the suicide toll is to be meaningfully reduced, recognition of the epidemiologic facts and a corresponding alignment of resources are needed to adequately address suicide risk across the lifespan.

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