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Wednesday 09 November 2016

Suicide stats propagate “invisibility of identities”

Posted in: Our Communities
By Sarah Murphy - 20th October 2016

The provisional suicide statistics for the 2015/16 year have been released and show 579 people had taken their own life - the highest number of deaths since records began in 2007.

The latest numbers continue an upward trend, with the latest numbers 16 deaths higher than the previous year, which was already 34 more deaths than in 2013/14.

While we know that sexual and gender minorities are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours, the suicide statistics currently collected do not take into account sexual and gender minorities.

Duncan Matthews, General Manager of LGBTI youth organisation RainbowYOUTH says this is “an area that continues to propagate the invisibility of queer/gender diverse identities.

“Until we can more accurately record those who are completing suicide due to discrimination experienced, there is reason for existing health services to be held accountable for meeting this need,” he says. “However, there is many challenges in accurately reporting identity post-humorously, as the person is unable to self-identify, with assumptions from behaviour or medical records being made.”

While there is currently no hard data on hand to point to whether there has been an increase in the number of young people self-harming or speaking about suicide related issues, Matthews says “Anecdotally, I would say there is definitely an increase in self-harming, however his is not always linked to suicidal thoughts or intentions.

“Even with organisations like RainbowYOUTH, OUTLine and excellent LGBTI support at places like AUT, I think that young people are still very hesitant to talk about mental health, as the strong message they receive is that that’s ’not what you do’ in NZ culture - especially if you want to present masculine.”

“Basically everything [RainbowYOUTH] do is aimed at improving the mental health of young rainbow people, however we are not a clinical service so rely on other organisations to provide services such as counselling.

“Specifically: our drop-in centre and peer groups work to reduce the isolation many young people can experience; our support team work to make sure those in need of services get connected to affirming services that work for them; and our resources (particularly the I’m Local project) work to combat discrimination experienced by young people across wider Aotearoa. (To name but a few!)”

Matthews says there is “not even close” to enough services available for people to seek help.

“There is significant under-funding generally in mental health in New Zealand, with people only receiving services once in absolute crisis. The underfunded services can do little to support the differing needs of people, particularly Rainbow people, so the few that do receive support in a timely manner often find it somewhat lacking.”

If this story raises issues and you need to talk, there is ALWAYS help out there. Please call OUTLine on 0800 OUTLINE, or Rainbow Youth on (09) 376 4155. After hours you can call Lifeline's 24-hr Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 TAUTOKO (82 88 65).

Sarah Murphy - 20th October 2016

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