Pacific youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than European youth, new research shows.
The University of Auckland study, published on Friday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, also found young people between the ages of 12 and 18 years had the highest rates of suicide across Pacific ethnic groups.
The study, by Pacific Studies senior lecturer Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, is the first statistical analysis of trends in suicide mortality for Pacific people across Australasia and the wider Pacific region.
It looked at the suicide deaths of Pacific people over a 17-year period.
READ MORE: Islanders at risk from mental disorders
From January 1996 to December 2013, 380 Pacific Islanders died by suicide, averaging 22 deaths per year.
Across all Pacific ethnic groups surveyed – Samoan, Cook Islands, Tongan and ‘other Pacific’ – more men took their lives than women.
Pacific suicides increased with deprivation. However, Pacific suicides were about double those of all other New Zealanders in the worst deprivation bracket.
Across Pacific ethnic groups, suicides were most prevalent in people aged 15 to 24, followed by those aged 25 to 39, the study found.
Across all ethnicities in New Zealand, suicides were most prevalent in the 40-plus age group.
Dr Monique Faleafa, the chief executive of Pacific suicide prevention programme Le Va, said the figures “weren’t news” to her.
“The troubling thing – not just for Pasifika – is that there are more attempts and deaths of younger people.”
She said suicide prevention for Pacific youth was complex, encompassing a range of factors.
Pacific people used both mental health and primary care services at lower rates than any other group, and tended to use them often only when they were in crisis, she said.
“It’s police cells on a Friday night and emergency departments on the weekend . . . but not if we get to those young people earlier.”
Stigma was also a “double whammy” for Pacific people, Faleafa said.
For Samoans, for example, traditionally mental illness was sometimes seen as the result of a breach of a tapu relationship – even one committed by an ancestor.
On Monday, the Health Research Council announced a $2 million research grant to help better support Maori and Pacific youth suffering with mental health issues.
HRC chief executive Professor Kath McPherson said mental health outcomes continued to be inequitable in New Zealand.
“Maori and Pacific people both disproportionately experience mental health issues.
“Pacific people also have a higher prevalence of mental illness than the general population, yet are much less likely to access mental health services.”
WHERE TO GET HELP:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children’s helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.