In the early 21st century about 500 New Zealanders died each year by suicide – more than in motor accidents. For those aged 15–24 suicide represented a significant proportion of all deaths: a third of all male deaths and half of all female deaths. New Zealand’s rate of suicide was about average internationally, although moderately high compared to similar developed countries. However, it was very high for those aged 15–24. Provisional data showed an increase to 668 deaths by suicide in the year 2017/18.
Suicide – the act of killing oneself – is a major social issue in New Zealand, with a large economic, social and personal cost.
Besides those who kill themselves each year, there are also about 7,000 admissions to hospitals for intentional self-harm, and many more people seriously consider suicide. More than one in seven people will consider killing themselves at some time in their lives, and over one in 22 attempt it.
As well as those who either kill themselves or attempt to do so, many more people are hugely affected – parents, partners, children, siblings, friends and workmates. They have to carry the emotional pain of guilt, sadness, longing and lost opportunities.
In monetary terms, one study suggested that in 2004 the direct annual cost of suicides and attempted suicides was over $23 million police, coroners, victim support and health care. If the loss of productive years of life was considered, the total was over $200 million; and if non-economic costs such as quality of life were included, the total was $1.4 billion.