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Youth suicide in New Zealand
  1. David Chalmers
  1. Injury Prevention Research Unit, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

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There has been considerable concern in New Zealand in recent times over a jump in the suicide rate for young people in the 15–24 age group. The 1995 figure of 156 deaths represented a rise over the 137 in 1994, which in itself was up on the stable figures (125 to 130 per year) of the preceding years. The rise was marked in young men aged 15–19 years and among women 15–24 years.

The age specific suicide rates in 1995 were: males 15–19 years 34.5 per 100 000; males 20–24 years 55.7, and total 15–24, 45.4 per 100 000. The figures for females were, respectively, 11.1, 14.6, and 12.9 per 100 000. Suicide is higher among Maori females than non-Maori females, higher among Maori males 15–19 and lower among those aged 20–24 years.

The rise in suicides was the subject of much public discussion and lead to the formation of Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, the introduction of a new mental health awareness curriculum in schools.

In the past the law has limited publication to name, address, and occupation. Since 1996 coroners have had discretion over the details permitted to be published concerning suicide, but this power is rarely used. Following a number of suicides some coroners have suggested that the practice should change because the right of the public to know and the usefulness of research outweigh the right of the grieving family to privacy.