Latest suicide statistics a wakeup call for New Zealand – PSA

Provisional annual suicide statistics for 2016/17 released today by the Chief Coroner show more people taking their own lives than ever recorded before, and it should be a wakeup call for New Zealand to truly address the crisis in mental health services and commit to a national suicide prevention target, says the Public Service Association.

“New Zealand’s suicide rate – the highest in the developed world for teenagers – should be considered a national disgrace after increasing for the third year in a row, and we simply must do more as a society to reduce this number,” says Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary.

“The Coroner’s statistics highlight the same problems that we have collectively failed to address as a nation – extraordinarily high numbers of young people committing suicide, especially among Māori and Pacific teenagers; high numbers of men of all ages, and high numbers of unemployed people.”

“There is an urgent crisis in mental health – people cannot currently access the care they need when they need it – and the system’s issues become peoples’ issues when it comes to mental illness and suicide.”

“To even begin to address this crisis, we must immediately hold an urgent independent inquiry into the delivery of mental health services, and we must set a national suicide prevention target.”

“Without aiming to make things better, they will stay the same – and the status quo is a tragedy.”

The PSA is part of the Yes We Care coalition of unions, community groups and patients who are currently taking 579 pairs of shoes across the country to visually highlight the 579 lives lost to suicide in the last Coroner’s report.

Today at midday on the lakefront in Queenstown, the coalition will sadly be adding twenty-seven pairs of shoes to that total, and the same will be happening at 2pm on Mission Bay beach in Auckland. Full details of the roadshow are available at

“During the back-and-forth politicking and scandalising of elections, we often forget about the real issues affecting New Zealanders, and this is the biggest,” says Ms Polaczuk.

“We all know someone affected by suicide, and it simply shouldn’t be that way.”

“If the measure of a society is how it cares for its most vulnerable members, we are failing abjectly.”