Warning: This story deals with the topic of suicide.

Health authorities are being urged to target a growing number of young men dying by suicide.

Figures released on Monday show 112 of the 685 people to die by suicide in the year to June 2019 were men aged 15 to 24.

More than three in every 10,000 young men aged 20 to 24 died by suicide, and men of all age groups made up 68 per cent of suicides.

Victoria University lecturer Dr Chris Bowden said the high rate was due to the “invisibility of men in previous suicide prevention”.

Published in Stuff

It appeared health authorities had been hesitant to consider men an “at-risk” group for an upcoming national suicide prevention plan, and men were not a group mentioned in the prior 2016 plan.

Bowden said he was among a group of researchers and clinicians with expertise in suicide that urged the Ministry of Health to directly address male suicide.

“We had to fight to get men as a significant at-risk group … they don’t see gender as being a significant risk factor.

“We’ve met with the ministry on numerous occasions to guide and advise them on who best to prevent male suicide, but we’re yet to see the action plan … The last draft that I saw had men identified as a target group.”

Bowden said men faced specific risk factors – a reluctance to speak about their issues; the use of more-lethal means of suicide; employment in high-risk areas; and, being more impulsive and decisive in their actions.

“We’re in a double bind. That hegemonic-masculine stuff stops men from asking for help, but at the same time we expect people who are extremely distressed to ask for help, and I think that’s the wrong message.

“We need to educate people to recognise people who are distressed, to reach out and offer help.”

Rather than expect men to walk into a doctor’s office, men needed a specific mental health approach delivered in “men-friendly” spaces.

Men needed to be reached at the workplace, through internet and text message counselling, and through their girlfriends and partners. More male counsellors needed to be employed.

“The services that are available for people who are struggling … They’re narrative based, they’re based on counselling and talk-based therapies, and those don’t always suit men.”

Health Minister David Clark said on Monday a new national Suicide Prevention Strategy and Suicide Prevention Office would be announced within weeks.

Clark said the Government has allocated $40 million, or $10m per year for four years, for suicide prevention in this year’s $1.9 billion budget for mental health and addiction.

Stuff has previously reported on a draft of the plan, which includes a dedicated bereaved counselling service, and new guidelines for social media, a suicide prevention and postvention workforce plan and a focus on increasing the peer (people with experience of mental distress) and Māori workforce.

Former Chief Coroner Neil MacLean said the latest numbers were an unsurprising continuation of a long trend, that needed immediate resourcing.

“Somehow we’ve got to put the resources on the ground, the people who can be approached … at the critical stage when someone really needs help.”

That young men died by suicide at a greater number than others was a “worldwide characteristic”, he said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for New Zealanders aged 15- to 24-years, and the second leading cause internationally. In Western countries men dominate the statistics.


1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

Anxiety New Zealand – 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)

Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Supporting Families in Mental Illness – 0800 732 825

By Thomas Manch
Published in Stuff
27 August 2019