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Female Youth Suicide Rate Highest Since 1999

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
David Chaplow
David Chaplow

Wellington, Dec 20 NZPA - Female youth suicide rates are at their highest level since 1999, according to 2008 figures released by the Health Ministry today.

The report, Suicide Facts, showed that in 2008, on average nearly 47 people a week were admitted to hospital as a result of self harm or a suicide attempt. There were 497 deaths and 2465 hospitalisations.

While the suicide rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people was slightly higher than in the previous year, it was 25.6 percent lower than the peak rate in 1998.

The Maori suicide rate of 13.3 per 100,000 was higher than the non-Maori suicide rate (10.6 per 100,000), but the difference was not statistically significant, the ministry said.

The overall suicide rate among people aged 15 to 24 was down 35.4 percent from the peak in 1995, but the female youth suicide rate of 11.1 per 100,000 people was the highest since 1999.

Youth suicide was particularly distressing, Director of Mental Health David Chaplow said.

"We are all affected most strongly by young people attempting or completing suicide," he said.

"Teenagers and young adults can take to heart issues that prompt attempts or suicide -- and we know that with the counsel of years they would likely have bounced back to live productive lives. It is for these reasons a variety of programmes are targeted at younger people."

There were a number of services young people could go to for help, including Lifeline, Youthline, the National Depression Initiative and the Lowdown, a website specifically for helping young people manage depression.

The key messages for young people at risk of suicide were to talk about how they were feeling and to ask for help, Dr Chaplow said.

There were also a number of initiatives set up to address youth depression, including reviews of school suicide prevention guidelines, school-based programmes to build resilience and mental health.

Meanwhile, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today a meeting would be held between media, mental health professionals and researchers early next year to update media guidelines for suicide reporting.

"It is essential for media to be full participants in updating the guidelines to ensure they are workable and achieve the aim of responsible reporting on the issues around suicide," Mr Dunne said.

"The meeting will be an important initial step to get the review under way."

A ministerial committee on suicide prevention reported to Prime Minister John Key that the media guidelines had not been reviewed since they were published in 1999 and that there would be benefit in undertaking a review.

In particular, the development of online media and social networking sites "had changed the landscape around how suicide is handled and covered", Mr Dunne said.

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