New Zealand's suicide rate is at its lowest in three years, according to the annual provisional suicide statistics released by the Chief Coroner this morning.
In the year to June 30, 654 people died by suicide, compared to 685 the year before.
The rates show a decrease in the number of young people dying by suspected suicide, particularly in the 15 to 19 year old range - down from 73 to 59 - and the 20 to 24 year old range - down from 91 to 60.
However there was an increase in deaths in the 80 to 84 year old range - 18 compared to six the year before.
Looking at ethnicity, Māori, Pacific Island and European suspected suicide rates decreased over the past year, but the Asian rate increased by 20 deaths.
Chief coroner Deborah Marshall said while it's encouraging to see the number drop, there are still over 650 families who have lost someone in tragic circumstances.
“Throughout this year there has been unhelpful and irresponsible public commentary on the effect Covid-19 would have on the suicide rate," she said.
"During the first lockdown period I said it was unhelpful to release figures for such a short time frame, as it is nearly impossible to draw sound conclusions, nor do I believe such public discourse is helpful to people in distress.
"I'm encouraged by the work the Suicide Prevention Office has started and for the reliable, strong and hope-filled voice that director Carla na Nagara has added to the wider public discourse."
Ms na Nagara said focusing on numbers won't help prevent suicide, and that speculating about them will have the opposite effect.
"We need to look behind the numbers to understand what is contributing to our suicide rate, and to the different rates within different population groups. We then need to address those issues. Until we do that as a country, there will not be any enduring impact on what is a shamefully high suicide rate in New Zealand.
"Preventing suicide requires an all-of-society effort from everyone. We all impact one another's wellbeing – this includes friends, family members, employers, colleagues, sports clubs, social clubs, NGOs and Government departments, as well as health and mental health services.
"We all have a part to play in preventing people from becoming so distressed that they see suicide as their only option."