Suicide linked to economic conditions | The Jackal

16 Aug 2012

Suicide linked to economic conditions

Yesterday, Radio New Zealand reported:

Latest statistics show a small increase in suicide for adults and a very slight decrease in youth suicide.

In 2010, 522 people took their own lives, up from 510 deaths in 2009.

There was one less youth suicide, with 113 teenagers dying in 2010.

What I don't understand is why these statistics are completely different to the preliminary statistics released last year? 558 people were reported to have committed suicide in 2010/11, 36 more than the latest statistics find.

You could understand a difference of maybe one or two deaths being wrongly classified because of natural causes, accidents and homicides, but 36 deaths being wrongly classified as suicides by the Police and coroner is highly questionable.

I wouldn't like to think that the government is ensuring incorrect data was being presented to the public just to save face, but that's exactly what appears to be happening.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the suicide rate is lower than the peak in 1998 when 577 people died by suicide.

He says the Government is developing a new four-year suicide prevention action plan, which should be released early next year.

Still at the drawing board eh! Comparing the latest questionable figures with those from 1998 is hardly something to crow about.

After an extensive amount of cost cutting under Labour, in 1991 the National government led by Jim Bolger made further cuts to welfare benefits. Even though 10 per cent of the population was unemployed, the aptly named Ruthanasia regime then further undermined the welfare state, with the introduction of fees for healthcare and tertiary education also having an adverse effect on low income earners. The result was that income inequality rose faster than in any other country in the OECD. We've recently seen a similar increase in inequality with a high level of unemployment, and therefore a comparative increase in the rate of suicide.

Some might argue that there is no relationship between economic conditions and the suicide rate... This is what the experts say (PDF):

Economic instability and insecurity increase the likelihood of immoderate and unstable life habits, disruption of basic social networks, and major life stresses − in other words, the relative lack of financial and employment security of lower socioeconomic groups is a major source of their higher mortality rates.

~ Brenner

Clearly there is a socioeconomic model of suicide... Therefore responsibility for New Zealand's increasing rate of suicide is the governments. Political policy and fiscal flexibility in particular can cause or mitigate the effects of economic cycles on suicide, that's why the suicide rate is a good indicator of how well a government is performing.

Unfortunately for New Zealand, National is completely failing in every respect to address the core reasons behind our increasing rate of suicide... Basically because they don't really care.