The sad reality of the latest suicide statistics belies the true cost borne by whānau and communities throughout Aotearoa, and should be a wake-up call for the incoming Government.
So says NZ Association of President Sarah Maindonald following the recent figures of suspected self-inflicted deaths in Aotearoa New Zealand increasing to 565 in the past financial year.
“It is devastating to know the number of New Zealanders who are taking their lives continues to be so high,” Maindonald says.
“I’m also saddened by the suicide rates of Māori, who are represented in these statistics nearly twice as much as non-Māori.
“Losing someone in this way impacts a whole community and engenders ongoing risk. We must do better in identifying risk and attending to psychological distress.
“My heart goes out to families and communities suffering in this way.”
There is no single solution to the multi-faceted problem that is suicide, Maindonald says, but ensuring there are services available to listen when people need to reach out is critical. So too is earlier intervention.
“It’s also time to start listening to Māori and other communities affected. Their expertise and indigenous knowledge is of primary importance in the design of supports.”
Maindonald urges Kiwis to check in with friends and family who they think may be having mental health issues or expressing suicidal thoughts. It does not increase risk to ask the question. She says we must connect and reach out. This can be a crucial first step in seeking help.
It is also another opportunity for the new Government to take a renewed and leading role in making tangible changes; by listening to those at the front line and the communities affected to work together to lessen the loss of such potential.
“We are all diminished by loss from suicide.”