National fudges suicide stats | The Jackal

27 Aug 2013

National fudges suicide stats

Today, National reported:

Despite the continuing unacceptably high number of suicides, the Coroner’s latest provisional figures, for the year ending 30 June 2013, show a reduction in the number of deaths by suicide among both young people aged between 15 and 24 years and Māori. The figures also show that suicide deaths in Christchurch have decreased compared to the previous year, back to pre-earthquake levels.

That's not correct. Here's what the Coroner actually reported (PDF):

Suicides in the Christchurch region (Timaru to Kaikoura) have risen from 67 (2010/11) to 81 (2011/12). The average number of suicides per year for this region over the past four years is 74. The figure of 67 deaths last year reflected the drop in suicides post-earthquake. The phenomenon of a drop in the suicide rate after a large scale crisis event, such as a natural disaster, has been observed elsewhere.

NZ Doctor also reported:

"We experienced an immediate drop in suicide in Christchurch post-quake but last year those numbers began creeping upwards. This trend has been observed elsewhere after a large-scale natural disaster, where there is an immediate drop," Judge MacLean said.

Todd McClay obviously hasn't read the report properly, because suicides have started to increase in Christchurch again since the earthquake. More to the point, there were 70 suicides in Christchurch per year when National gained power, there were 117 suicides to June 2012. That's if we are to believe this graph from the report instead of what the Coroner has stated:

What else does the Minister get wrong?

The total number of suicides for the year was 541, which is a decrease of six from last year, and two less than the average number of suicides over the last six years.

So National is claiming that a decrease of only six suicides is some sort of success? How despicable! It's even more despicable when you consider that the provisional suicide rate between July 2008 and June 2009 was 531.

Other negative parts of the Coroners report that McClay is ignoring are:

The highest number of female (153) suicides since records began.
The highest number of suicides (75) in the 20 to 24-year-old age cohort since records began.

Despite these facts, McClay writes:

“There are signs that concerted community and health agency programmes and activities have been effective in reducing suicides in these two groups and that is encouraging.”

Effective? National has cut funding to many organizations working on the front lines to help reduce New Zealand's terrible suicide rate. National has also increased inequality and hardship, both of which are known to lead to an increase in suicide.

There are now on average 17.6 more suicides per year since National gained power. That rate is likely to keep increasing while their destructive neoliberal agenda continues to degrade people's lives.