New Zealand’s Appalling Youth Suicide Rate

New Zealand has the highest rate of teen suicide in the developed world – and we are struggling to stop it rising. Every week it claims two teenagers or children in New Zealand.

If it were a contagious disease it would make the headlines as our health system battled to contain it. Instead it is hushed away and not spoken about openly. In the meantime, our children are failing to make positive and safe choices with their lives.

Depression does not always manifest into suicidal thoughts but children and teens who are struggling with their mental health need support too. As do mothers, fathers, friends and co-workers.

Why are so many of our youth taking their own lives?

There is no easy answer. But there are a number of issues which may point to why our youth suicide rate is so high. Social issues including child poverty, teenage pregnancies, bullying, family violence, and child abuse, have all been mentioned as factors that may be attributing to the appalling statistics. Confused or faltering mental health systems have also been called into question.

Speak up, not “man up”

In a country where the mighty All Blacks are considered by many to be kings of masculinity, another factor that may be affecting mental health, especially that of our men and boys, is the stigma that depression is perceived as a sign of weakness. So before you utter those words “man up”, consider what your child, partner or friend really needs to hear.

(WARNING: Strong language)

Spreading the word

In 2018, New Zealand comedian, Mike King, went out on the road with other speakers to talk to around 20,000 Kiwis about mental health. He wanted to get the message out that “any one of us can be the hope someone needs”. His message has resonated with people around the world. We may not always know when someone is struggling but we need to be that hope, if we can.

Where to turn to for help

If it is an emergency or someone is at risk, including yourself, call 111.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 : 24 hours a day, 7 days a week : telephone counselling and support
Youthline: Free text 234 (between 8am and midnight) : phone 0800 376 633 (24/7) : email : youth health service : The Good2Great app helps youth explore who they are and how to grow to be the best they can be
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 : open 24/7 : ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays to speak to a Kidsline Buddy (trained teenage telephone counsellors)
0800 WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm-10pm on weekdays and 3pm-10pm on weekends) : counselling helpline for children and youth : Online chat available 7pm-10pm every day
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 : Free text 4202 : open 24/7 : helpline and resources
It’s not OK (Are you OK?): 0800 456 450 : Open 9am-11pm 7 days a week : Community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) : open 24/7 : A service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

1737, need to talk?

1737, need to talk?‘ is New Zealand’s national mental health & addictions helpline number. It is free to text or call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to talk with a trained counsellor.

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her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. Alezandra 03/11/2018 at 8:32 pm

    I was shocked to hear that New Zealand would have the highest rate in the developed world. We do need to watch our words ….that “man up” statement is thrown around and we never know how it hurts not just teens. Nowadays with social media and technology, bullying has become too easy. Mental health issues are also very much low on the radar in the medical field coz it’s not as apparent, but we need to be aware that this is possible with anyone and we need to be more educated and look for signs.

  2. SarahBlair 28/10/2018 at 11:00 am

    As a parent of teenagers this terrifies me! When I was a teenager I lost many friends to suicide and one in particular I feel partially responsible for, she had asked me to visit her to have a chat about a problem that she had, I was busy and said that I would come over in a few days, she died that night… I talk to my kids about things going on in there lives and help them with any problem that they might have

  3. MuddledUpMolly 23/10/2018 at 10:04 pm

    This really is a shameful statistic in our country and I feel for every single person affected by suicide 🙁 I think it is great to have more coverage of this very real issue, especially from well known people or ‘celebrities’. Mike King is coming to Wanganui sometime soon to talk about this and it has seemed to have generated a lot of interest which is great!

  4. Shorrty4life1 20/10/2018 at 8:31 pm

    Great helplines list this is great for people in need of help or an ear to chat to or just some support to turn them away from doing something silly. I find it so terrible that youths are feeling so down that they need to take their own lives. It’s so sad. Bullying etc has got worse these days than it ever has been though so if stuff like this was stopped it could definitely help. And also more councillors in schools even primary schools could help.

  5. dawnblyth 16/10/2018 at 10:34 pm

    As a woman who has anxiety (medicated), a wife to a husband who has depression (medicated) and a parent to a son who has general and social anxiety I know how hard life can be at times. We need to ask for help, talk to friends, family or counsellors and know that it is ok to do this. It is not an embarassment to have a mental health issue, it is just a part of who you are as a person. Other people around need to learn acceptance, and I think with all the information and advertising around mental health issues that the acceptance is a lot better today than it has been in the past.

  6. Mands1980 16/10/2018 at 9:09 am

    It’s scary to think there is so much youth suicides around. We try to be as open as possible with our kids sometimes they don’t think what they are saying like I’d rather be dead we try and explain that once you are gone there is no coming back and that everybody loves them so much even though they all have bad days like us as adults. There are so many people they can talk to these days. By talking openly I hope it makes a difference it is a very hard topic but one that needs to be out in the open.

  7. Bevik1971 15/10/2018 at 12:47 pm

    I’m just so so saddened by youth mental illness and suicide. It has hit very close to home for our family, my son is battling with mental illness and his partner was recently hospitalized after a tragic turn of events where police etc where involved and her story was on the front page of the paper (no names). I just feel at such a loss to do much for him and for her – all I can do is be there mentally and physically where needed and give support and love. My son has also had a few friends who have sadly passed by suicide 🙁

  8. kymmage 12/10/2018 at 8:17 pm

    It’s important as parents that we know there are places we can turn as well. Children do suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s easy to think, they are kids what are they so worried about? Or to say, they are teens they have no idea what hard is. But the truth is that when we think that way we close the door on discussion and on people, teens and kids opening up. People who commit suicide often feel they are a burden and they might feel they are doing everyone a favour. But they aren’t. Kids may or may not really understand the finality of suicide but that doesn’t stop them trying and on occasion succeeding at ending their lives. So we do need to talk about it.

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