607 ‘suspected’ suicides in the year to June says Chief Coroner

For the first time, the Office of the Chief Coroner and the Ministry of Health have made available combined suicide statistics via a new interactive web tool providing a single source of information on deaths by suicide in New Zealand.

It reveals that in the year to 30 June 2021, 607 people died by suspected suicide, compared to 628 the year before – a decrease of 21 deaths, and a drop in the suspected suicide rate from 11.8 deaths per 100,000 to 11.6.

“Understanding what a change in numbers and rates from one year to the next means is difficult because these numbers and rates can fluctuate considerably,” says Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall.

“But it is heartening to see that the year’s figures show fewer deaths overall.”

Among Māori populations there was a decrease in suspected suicides from 19.8 per 100,000 people to 15.8, but for Pacific populations there was an increase in the suspected suicide rate from 7.2 to 9.6.

More broadly, there was a decrease in suspected suicides for females and males in the 15-24 age range, from 12.6 to 11.4 among females and 22.7 to 22.2 in males.

It is important to note that the suicide figure for 2020/2021 is of suspected suicides, not confirmed suicides. In fact, there have been no confirmed figures for suicides since the 2017/2018 year according to the new ‘web tool’.

Notes

  1. Explore the interactive web tool here: https://minhealthnz.shinyapps.io/suicide-web-tool/
  2. Some suicide statistics displayed in the web tool may differ from those previously published on
    the Coronial Services of New Zealand website, as the methodology used to identify suspected suicides has been refined to enable better information sharing with the Ministry of Health for the web tool. District Health Board and ethnicity rates have also been realigned with Ministry of Health data to ensure there is consistency and better comparability within the web tool.
  3. The Chief Coroner releases statistics for suspected intentionally self-inflicted deaths, or suspected suicides, which are provisional because they include active coronial cases. These statistics total all suspected suicides, including those where the coroner has not yet established if the person intended to kill themselves. On completing a coronial inquiry, a coroner may rule that some deaths were not suicide.
  4. A suicide is classified as confirmed by the Ministry of Health when the coroner determines the cause of death to be suicide, or there is enough information to suggest the coroner will find the cause of death to be suicide.