Community support helps prevent suicide: coroner

Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean talks about suicide, at the Dunedin Public Library last night....
Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean talks about suicide, at the Dunedin Public Library last night. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A frank conversation about the ''stubbornly persistent'' suicide rate in New Zealand was held in Dunedin last night.

Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean, of Hamilton, talked about suicide to 50 people in the Dunningham Suite at the Dunedin Public Library.

The Dunedin talk was the final stop of a southern tour that included talks in Oamaru on Wednesday and Invercargill on Thursday.

Judge MacLean was joined by comedian Mike King in Oamaru and Invercargill but last night the judge was on his own to talk and listen about suicide.

Judge MacLean detailed how the suicide rate in New Zealand was ''stubbornly persistent''.

National annual suicide figures for the year ending June 30 last year revealed 541 suicides, which was six fewer suicides than in 2012, and two fewer than the average number of suicides for the past six years, he said.

The latest suicide statistics revealed 70% of those committing suicide were men and the ''disturbing'' trend of more young Maori females was now featuring, he said.

Judge MacLean said youth suicide was a considerable concern and other ''at-risk'' groups included older males, Maori, Pasifika and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual groups.

The talk was designed to make the community more aware that it was acceptable to talk about suicide.

There were many reasons why people contemplated and completed suicide and although there was no single answer to the issue, a key way to lower the suicide rate was connecting every individual within a community in a supportive and valuing way.

The suicide rate in Christchurch dropped after the earthquakes because neighbours met and ''pitched in'' to help each other and there was ''a feeling of togetherness'' in the city.

Suicide prevention was a community issue and community support agencies and district health board services played key roles in supporting at-risk people.

Judge MacLean said he was hopeful and it was ''looking promising'' for the national suicide rate to drop below 500 this year, he said.

The audience shared their stories of suicide and agreed with a frank comment made by a Dunedin man who had survived a suicide attempt.

''Not talking about it has not worked. We've got to start a dialogue.'' 

Where to get help
Lifeline: 0800-543-354
Depression Helpline (8am-midnight): 0800-111-757
Healthline: 0800-611-116.
Samaritans: 0800-211-211/(04) 473-9739
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508-828-865
Youthline: 0800-376-633, free text 234 or email
What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1pm-11pm): 0800-942-8787
Kidsline (for children 14 and under; 4pm-6pm weekdays): 0800-543-754
If it is an emergency, call 111



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