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Region’s suicide rate points to worrying trend

There have been 83 deaths by suicide in Wairarapa between 2009 and 2021, with a rapidly increasing rate reported by community groups this year.
ChangeAbility social worker Hayley Wilton said that, within the last five weeks, the practice had seen about five deaths by suicide from its former clients. Tinui Revered Steve Thompson said the number could be higher.
Just last year, numbers released by the Ministry of Health showed six probable deaths by suicide in Wairarapa.
Mental Health Foundation said men were more than twice as likely to die by suicide than women, particularly rural men who saw a rate of 26.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000 in 2010.
However, Wilton said it could be a challenge getting men into the door for support.
She said if the first response didn’t go well, it was unlikely men would return for support again.
ChangeAbility family violence programme facilitator Paul Williams said he had noticed an increase in anxiety in the farming community about compliance.
“There’s a lot of anger about compliance and what it actually means for them financially.”
Thompson said it was important to make sure people were supported if it seemed that something wasn’t right.
He said East Coast Rural Support Trust, who he worked with, had seen an increase in the use of their support services.
“Not just with suicide but with the wet weather and now with the new government regulations, they’re [farmers] dealing with that.”
Thompson said everyone “got the blues a bit” but it was the people who cut themselves off that needed help the most.
“My job is to walk with people and support them through it, but I’d much rather walk with the people who have got the problems and see them through it than have to walk with the family afterwards.”
Thompson said in the rural areas people were more aware of mental health struggles and suicide in their communities.
“Dealing with the aftermath of a suicide is one of the worst things you can do… it’s really hard at the time.”
Thompson said he had lost a family member of his own to suicide.
Wilton said if professional support wasn’t an option, talking to a good friend about mental health struggles was a good step.
“And if there’s risk of harm, then call the police or a mental health unit right away,” Logan said.
Despite a reported increase in deaths by suicide in Wairarapa, Ministry of Health data showed the number had remained the same with six deaths in both the 2019 to 2020 financial year and the 2020 to 2021 financial year.
Ministry of Health director of the suicide prevention office Matthew Tukaki said yesterday that the ministry was working hard to ensure a significant and sustained reduction in the suicide rate in New Zealand.
“This means more New Zealanders are living long and productive lives, and fewer whanau, friends and communities are left grieving.”
He said the reduction in suspected suicide rates was consistent with international data.
Most countries had seen no change or a decrease in the rates of suicides, including across males and females and across age groups.

Where to get help

These 24/7 free phones are operated by trained counsellors who can help you talk through problems and identify ways of coping.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (Available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 Tautoko) (Available 24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
Youthline: 0800 376 633 Need To Talk? Free Call Or Text 1737 (Available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (11am to 10.30pm)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (Available 24/7)
East Coast Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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