Life circumstances the major cause of suicide – Matt Tukaki

By Bronson Perich

Suicide prevention advocate Matt Tukaki says life circumstances, rather than mental illness are driving Māori to suicide.

“In fact, a lot of it has to do with the daily struggle of life, relationship breakdowns, lack of jobs and employment, a small business failure,” Matt Tukaki says, “

Tukaki says these problems are solvable. They need not be the cause of a person taking their own life.

Aside from his National Māori Council duties, Tukaki serves as chair for the board of Suicide Prevention Australia. He says he has repeatedly asked the government to use his insights to fight suicide.

Tukaki says the suicide fatality numbers don’t tell the full story. He says there are thousands of Māori who have tried to take their lives but failed.

“If we have a look at the past decade, we’re talking about more than 16,000 of our people who have made the attempt at some point,” Tukaki says.

Last year he made headlines when he leaked the national 2018 suicide statistics. He did so because he believed that the government would try to disguise its failure to reduce suicide fatalities.

Now that Covid is killing businesses, Tukaki says the subsequent rise in unemployment will also lead to a rise in suicides.

Helping people get through these circumstances will help to reduce suicide, he says.

Media focus has highlighted the high numbers of rangatahi suicide. But Tukaki says there are rising numbers of older pakeke taking their lives as well.

“There are Māori in their middle years, both men and women, starting to make attempts and also take their lives,” he says.

“But the trend analysis is also showing that we have a problem with those over the age of 55.”

Ngā Ngaru Rautahi o Aotearoa has launched an initiative to fight suicide. One of its primary roles will be to educate people on how to identify people with suicidal tendencies.

Helping groups:

  • Lifeline 0800 543 354
  • Suicide Crisis Help Line 0508 828 865
  • Healthline 0800 611 116
  • Key to Life 0800 2 KORERO
  • Youthline 0800 376 633
  • Parent Help 0800 568 856
  • Gambling Help Line 0800 654 655
  • Family Violence Help Line 0800 456 450
  • Alcohol and Drug Help Line: 0800 787 797
  • Financial, Family and
  • Debt Help Directory: www.familyservices.govt.nz