There is "no question" New Zealand's suicide rate is too high, the Prime Minister said today, but moved away from introducing a target saying it "implies that we have a tolerance for suicide".
Ministry of Justice data released today shows the number of suicides in New Zealand in the last year has risen to 685 - the highest number on record.
"There is no question that as a Government we have to put our all into turning that around," Ms Ardern said. "It is one of our biggest long term challenges as a nation."
She questioned whether a target would bring down the suicide rate.
"A target implies that we have a tolerance for suicide, and we do not."
"We will continue to focus as a Government, as a country, on bringing that rate down. The goal has to be no one lost to suicide."
Ms Ardern said the Government was "moving quickly" but it would take time to create change.
The provisional data released by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall showed a rise of 17 deaths, up from 668 in the 2017/2018 year. In 2016/2017 the number was 606 and in 2015/2016 the number was at 579.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson called the suicide numbers this year "a really horrendous result".
"Over 680 deaths is just horrible, I know some of the families affected by those numbers... I know the human impact of those numbers. The fact that these numbers continue to go up is just so shattering."