Youth suicide caused more by modern social pressures than mental illness, study finds

Self-harm and suicide among New Zealand youth are no longer just drastic actions springing out of serious mental health conditions, a new Government report has found.

The causes of NZ's youth suicide rate are explored in a new Government report. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government's chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman has found that self-harm and suicide are more often now responses to youth lacking the resiliency to cope with modern social pressures.

"Most young people who commit self harm - which may extend to suicide - are doing so not because they are mentally unwell - but that they are not resilient enough to the pressures of the world around them," Sir Peter said.

Included in the "critical pressures" facing those growing up in the twenty first century are: changes to families, more freedom in teenage years, technology and the potential for cyber bullying and celebrity culture creating unrealistic expectations.

They are pressures contributing to New Zealand's shocking youth suicide rate - the highest in the developed world.

Last year 59 people under the age of 19 took their own life.

Sir Peter said New Zealand children need to be taught coping skills to societal pressures as young as six years old, and need to have greater access to counselling during adolescence.

Alcohol use is also a major contributor.

"Over 50 per cent of young people who commit suicide have high levels of alcohol in their bloodstream at their death," Sir Peter said.

The Government is set to announce new mental health initiatives in the next few weeks.

"We do need to do things differently and we are looking for new and innovative approaches," Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman said.

Where can I get support and help?
Below is a list of some of the services available which offer support, information and help.
Lifeline 24/7 – 0800 543 354
Kidsline (aimed at children up to 18 years of age, available 24/7) – 0800 54 37 54
Depression Helpline 24/7 - 0800 111 757
Healthline - 0800 611 116
Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email
What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) - 0800 942 8787 - includes The Journal online help service - visit the website, email or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between 12 noon and 12 midnight).