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 email@example.com : 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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Written 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”