Samaritans struggling as mental health needs rise

Media release: 7 August 2017

Samaritans, at the frontline of suicide prevention in New Zealand for more than 50 years, are struggling to survive financially, Samaritans Wellington Chair, Peter Barker, said.

Having the worst teen suicide rate in the developed world is the most glaring symptom of New Zealand’s mental health crisis, but the 30,000 calls Samaritans take annually, tell us of a multitude of other symptoms, Barker said.

The government has recognised the crisis by announcing in this year’s budget it will add $224 million over four years to the mental health budget.  Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said much of the new funding would go to ‘innovative proposals’ which will be announced within weeks.

“It’s good the Government recognises the problem, but funding is needed in the ‘here and now’ to enable proven services to continue,” Barker said.

He also welcomed the release on July 26 of Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman’s discussion paper on youth suicide.  Read the report here

He said  Sir Peter’s call for primary intervention starting early in life was helpful as was his call for greater access to counselling, which is what Samaritans provide.

“Organisations like Samaritans  use tried and tested methods to deal with people in crisis. We deal with people on the brink right now, every day,” Barker said. Samaritans also has a vital role in prevention - listening and talking to people who are depressed, lonely and isolated.  

 “Even with the generosity of New Zealanders who will respond to our annual appeal starting this week, we are forced to lead a hand-to-mouth existence, with no government funding for our services”.

Barker said it is shameful New Zealand consistently ranks worst in the OECD for teen suicide and is second worst for people under 25.  On average, two teens and two children kill themselves each week.

A recent international report by Samaritans, Dying from inequality-socio-economic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour, links suicide to well-known factors such as economic disparity and homelessness.  Barker said suicide and mental health issues can touch people from every walk of life.

“We all know familes and communities that have been devasted by such events.”

Despite more money going into mental health, Barker said poverty and isolation mean many Kiwis cannot access mental health support when they need it. 

“That’s why Samaritans provides a free 24/7 helpline for anyone in New Zealand going through tough times.”

He urged people to give generously for the Samaritans Annual Appeal, which starts this week.

Further information:

To make a donation to Samaritans please click here.

If you need to talk to someone, call the Samaritans 24/7 helpline on 0800 726 666.