Shocking suicide rates for Māori men

By Tema Hemi

Dr Keri Lawson Te Aho of Otago University who specialises in suicide says colonisation dating back to the 1700's has been a major contributor to suicide rates among Māori. This comes as the latest Ministry of Health figures show that suicide within Māori men has doubled those of non-Māori men since 2016. 

Dr Lawson Te Aho believes the way forward for our Māori men is to confront the past. 

Dr Te Aho says, "There’s a form of sub-clinical depression happening with our Māori men and its due to circumstances that are largely outside their control such as unemployment, being pōhara. All those bigger kaupapa that stem from our history of colonisation."

Suicide rates for Māori men have doubled those of non-Māori that's 31.7 suicides per 100,000 Māori males in 2016, up from 25.6 per 100,000 the preceding year. 

Te Aho also says, "It’s rooted and or anchored in our history under colonisation. Which as we know is ongoing. It didn’t begin and end in 1769 when Cook landed here. And so we have intergenerational trauma, we have very traumatic histories that are now beginning to surface."

Although the intentions of our current government may be genuine when contending with issues of suicide, are the decisions they are making around suicide making an impact? 

Minister of Health David Clark says, "It’s always concerning when we see statistics around suicide in this country. This government wants to get to a future where we don’t have suicide."

Labour List MP Willow-Jean Prime says, "In exhausting every avenue I know that suicide is a major concern for me and my people in the far north."

Employment Minister Willie Jackson says, "We know that there's a crisis going on in terms of Māori health. It’s not something we are ignoring, we are hearing our people."

Labour List MP Kiritapu Allan says, "That's why it’s such a focus for this current governments plan to really invest 1.9 billion dollars into mental health."  

Nationals Shane Reti says, "Whether it’s enough well that's for everyone to decide it’s up to the figures to tell us whether we've made impact that matters."

The figure is the highest rate in the previous decade and more than twice that of the non-Māori male rate of 14.3 per 100,000.

Lawson Te Aho says in closing, "I believe that there is a lot of underestimated influence and power in engaging our men in activism, in stepping up and stepping forward and taking leadership roles because it gives them confidence."

New Zealand's overall suicide numbers also reached a 10-year high in 2016 with 553 people dying by suicide, up from 529 in 2015.