Suicide more likely among baby boomers and elderly
AN AGEING population means more adult suicides are to be expected, according to a senior research fellow at Auckland University of Technology.
Dr Annette Beautrais has told 350 people at a webinar on the 10th annual World Suicide Prevention Day it is likely to become a major cause of death in the baby boomer generation.
She adds that in 2010 the highest rates were among males aged 85 years and older, not teenagers, which is a common misperception.
“The reality that we have to face right now is we do have to begin to address older adult suicide in a very serious way. With the ageing population we’ll be competing heavily for health resources, financial resources and self-inflicted deaths will increase.”
She says the perception that it is more of a youth problem is because of the two different sets of data produced by the Ministry of Health and the Chief Coroner, and also the way the media interprets and presents the data.
“When it’s reported that teens take their lives often, it normalises it and makes people think it’s a
common option for teens. Everyone thinks it’s young people, but the reality is only 10% of 15-19 year olds die of this.”
“This misperception tends to drive advocacy for funding to be directed at young people and that’s understandable as it’s seen as more tragic.”
New Zealand sits in the top 10 countries for death rates by suicide, with a total of 522 people in NZ dying in 2010.
Dr Beautrais says it is actually a statistically rare event, but overall the rate has not declined in the past decade.
She says funding is not keeping up with demographic trends and more help needs to be targeted at older men in places they frequent.
“The Scottish health council had a successful campaign, where they printed helpline numbers on beer mats, which vastly increased calls to helplines. We should be investing in this.”
The Australian group ‘Mates in Construction’ recently gained $5.5 million in a research grant to extend their prevention programme because it has been so effective in addressing the issue in the workplace.
In the latest Suicide Prevention Information NZ newsletter, Stu, a New Zealand farmer whose friend, also a farmer, took his own life last year, says men are notoriously bad at talking about their feelings and farming has its own unique set of problems.
He says the financial strain on farmers is huge and can stress them out.
He emphasises that during times of pressure it is important to understand you are not alone and that others may be in the same boat.
International expert on suicide prevention Dr Gregory Luke Larkin also presented his views with Dr Beautrais at the webinar.
The Lion Foundation Chair of Emergency Medicine will speak at the Suicide Prevention 2012 conference in Auckland on Friday 28 September.
Dr Beautrais is also organising a conference next year specifically about older adult suicide because she believes New Zealand is lagging behind other countries in dealing with the issue.