Today is World Mental Health Day and a just-released report says that suicide rates among Asian people appear to be increasing in New Zealand. While death by suicide in the Asian population is relatively low, racism and discrimination are leading factors contributing to suicide, says the report from the Suicide Mortality Review Committee.
The committee reviews suicide deaths and advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce the number of these deaths in Aotearoa New Zealand. Its latest report, released yesterday (9/10), focuses on understanding deaths by suicide in the Asian population of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The committee says these deaths are avoidable and create unnecessary suffering for those bereaved by suicide.
Professor Rob Kydd, chair of the committee, says health and social policy should not ignore Asian mental health and that a proactive approach is required now to address suicide in this diverse and growing population group before rates increase. The Asian population in New Zealand is the third largest behind European and Māori,and is projected to surpass Māori and Pacific population groups by 2038.
“Suicide rates for Asian people have fluctuated but appear to be increasing. With the projected growth in the Asian population, we are concerned the rate may rise,” he says.
“With culturally and linguistically diverse groups challenging our mental health system there is a need for health services to be culturally appropriate. While the Government has a responsibility to focus on the tangata whenua of Aotearoa, and support Pacific populations, policies for Asian and refugee communities are under-developed.
“Tackling racism in all forms, along with social disadvantage, isolation and exclusion, will have a large impact on suicide rates,” explains Professor Kydd.
Shame and stigma around mental illness is also an issue for Asian populations. “Mental distress and suicide affecting Asian people in this country has been a relatively hidden issue. Mental health issues and suicide are stigmatising and shaming for many Asian people- creating a barrier to seeking help.
“However, the Asian population is growing in New Zealand and the lack of suicide prevention strategies for Asian people living in here is a concern. It is our collective responsibility, across all social, justice, and health agencies, to act now on what we know. We cannot wait any longer,” Professor Kydd says.
Where to get help
Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342
Need to Talk? 1737 call or text (mental health, depression, and anxiety counselling)
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 | 0508 TAUTOKO; 12 noon to 12 midnight (those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else). Aunty Dee: www.auntydee.co.nz
OUTLine NZ: 0800 688 5463
Youthline: 0800 376 633 Skylight: www.skylight.org.nz