Is there no one approach that would make a significant difference to suicide rates?

The New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006-2016 is a xomprehensive document, and in general it has covered a lot of the areas that need to be looked at in suicide prevention. some of its claims, though, are a bit shaky in my opinion.

Suicide is not a ‘quick fix’ issue and no one approach is likely to, on its own, make a significant difference. Like most complex health issues where there are multiple contributing factors, suicide prevention requires sustained action at a range of levels, and a commitment to investment over a long period of time. (p.14)

Consistent evidence shows that:
a. the majority of those dying by suicide or making suicide attempts have a recognisable
mental health problem
b. mental health disorders (including, in particular, mood disorders, substance use disorders,
psychotic disorders and antisocial disorders) account for up to 70 percent of suicides and
suicide attempts (p.15)

These two quotes add up to – there’s no one thing that will make a significant difference to suicide rates, but suicide rates are driven by mental illness. Would it not make sense that mental health treatment would be a key to driving down suicide rates?

I would suspect that the government doesn’t want to go down that path because it brings up how woefully underfunded mental health treatment is. Waiting times for people that need to be seen immediately are supposed to be same-day, but for those that are only ‘urgent’ priority the wait can be as long as 7-10 days. The guidelines only require immediate referral for ‘serious’ suicidal intent. So those who are immediately suicidal maybe seen on the same day, but those who are only potentially suicidal are shunted onto a waiting list too long for some. Who judges whether someone is ‘seriously’ suicidal? How many only sort-of suicidal people die in the week and a half it takes for an overloaded system to respond to their needs?

The government acknowledges that mental illness is the dominant commonality in suicides, yet it will not assign adequate funding to treatment of mental illness. Do they have some data that says that spending on a proper mental health system won’t help drive down suicide rates? I don’t think so. I think they’re not wanting to spend the money it would take to reform our mental health system, and therefore reducing the national suicide rate to an economic game of numbers. People’s lives deserve better, whether they’re at risk of suicide or mentally unwell in other ways.


2 thoughts on “Is there no one approach that would make a significant difference to suicide rates?

  1. erserena

    Someone who is serious about suicide will tell everyone they are fine and make no calls because the made a decision. It is not always as impulsive as people care to believe.

  2. Wombat Post author

    Some people will. Some people will reach out. Some suicides are long-planned and kept secret. Others are acts of desperation when someone feels like no-one is there to care any more. It is different for every person. The acts of desperation could be prevented with better suicide intervention care, and some of the long-planned events, as well as a whole lot of desperation events, could be prevented by good mental health care when people are less unwell.


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