Dark malaise an indictment on modern New Zealand



Our beautiful, economically developed, peaceful ‘God’s own’ country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. More than one person takes their own life every day. The problem is bigger than the road toll, which is tragic enough. Since the coroner started releasing details of suicide in 2007-8, never fewer than 500 people per annum have succumbed to the ultimate expression of desperation. Figures indicate suicide attempts may be 40 times that rate. 51 people committed suicide In August last year alone.

Suicide rates are higher in deprived areas, and occurs among Maori almost twice non-Maori levels. NZ has the highest rate of suicide in the OECD for those aged 15-24. It’s disproportionately higher again for Maori in that age range. Last year the suicide rate was highest among those aged from 40-44. It’s clearly a national tragedy, a loss, a waste of good life, a sign that too many New Zealanders feel desperate, unvalued, worthless, hopeless and better off dead.

Governments are too scared to even talk about the issue, and therefore incapable of addressing it. Individuals and families dealing with the effects of mental illness and suicide say there’s a lack of support. Institutional responses are inadequate – even dangerous. There’s a ‘culture of denial’, a failure to take the problem seriously. Sometimes public mental health centres respond so poorly that patients die in, or having left, their care. There’s a failure to listen to the mentally ill and those who love them.

As the measure of society’s wellbeing, New Zealand’s suicide rate clearly shows us wanting. Mike King has described our suicide status as ‘a cancer’, but ‘without the daffodil day’. It’s an issue afflicting all ages, and in addition, hits families, friends and communities at large. It’s a serious indictment on our society. It’s the outward expression of something deeply wrong in how we deal with those challenged by modern life, and in modern life itself. It’s a reflection on both the causes of hopelessness, depression and anxiety, and how we treat and respond to mental health problems. But suicide reflects other pathologies evident in modern New Zealand as well.

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The ‘Social Progress Imperative’ reports that New Zealand has a high level of social progress relative to economic performance. We have good access to basic education, fresh water and sanitation, personal rights. The ‘First World’ economic model meets our material needs as consumers– we have a choice of the latest fashions, smart phones and tv or car, but commodity fetishism in exchange for a life of wage slavery provides little of real meaning. It’s no wonder there’s anomie, alienation, disorientation at the crazy, unjust, unsustainable world. And despite the loving support of family and friends, an epidemic number of people choose to end their own lives year upon year upon year.

Indeed, the World Health Organisation reports that 47% of the population in Western countries suffer from depression, anxiety and addiction problems. Clearly economic development and modernisation comes with human and social cost. Other indicators prove this point, and in many ways New Zealand performs worse than most.

We have the fifth worst child abuse record in the OECD. A child is admitted to hospital every second day in NZ, with injuries arising from assault, neglect or mistreatment. 10-14 children each year in this country are victims of homicide. On average, a child is killed every five weeks. Most victims are under five years old, and 90% of them are killed by someone they know. A society that kills its young is an obviously unhealthy one.

This social pathology becomes self-perpetuating. Abused or neglected children are 25% more likely to suffer delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use and mental health problems than others. Indeed, New Zealand has one of the developed world’s highest teen pregnancy rates, the second highest abortion rate, and among the most drug use.

A 2011 United Nations report shows us performing among the worst nations in the OECD in terms of violence against women and maternal mortality. One in three women experienced violence from their partner between 2000 and 2010, we’re one of the worst countries in the OECD for sexual violence. A quarter of Kiwi kids have witnessed family violence. 27% have seen physical violence against an adult, mostly in the home. 24% of kids live in poverty, 180,000 go without the things they need.

But New Zealanders work some of the longest hours in the western world.
Despite our general living standards, development levels and modern society, and our reputation as open and friendly people, below the veneer lies a darker malaise.

Our post-colonial, uber-capitalist, neo-liberal system distributes goods and services conspicuously well, so we have cheaper credit and more consumer choice than ever before. But it’s a system that’s ultimately underpinned by a high level of self-harm. Too many individuals feel meaningless, worthless, unsupported and alone. The Government increasingly wipes its hands of collective support or responsibility, passing it to individuals, families, NGOs or the private sector, none of whom are in a position to address the causes of the problem.

We are all more than just consumers or customers, and our value doesn’t hinge on what colour we are, what job we have, or how much we earn. Mental health conditions including addiction, clearly need more understanding and support. Sadly, with our suicide and child abuse rates, our teen pregnancy and abortion statistics, our sexual and physical violence records, individuals within our society pass a poor and hopeless judgement on modern New Zealand every day.


  1. Statistics like this are meaningless to the current Government, they are a problem Key does not want to know about, he is more interested in the big s**t like the TPPA, playing golf with Obama and the Rugby World Cup, and don’t forget the flag.

    • It’s deeper than that. Fundamentally Keys thinks the markets are self correcting.

      Which is stupid considering all the state owned assets we have sold are being bailed out by Key.

      • How is Air NZ or all of the Power companies being bailed out? The main support from the State to SOE’s from what I can tell are to 100% owned entities like Solid Energy or NZ Rail.

        • Sorry Andrew. I complete ignored your comment. Well anyway. Nice to know The Government didn’t have to bail out Air New Zealand by buying back some shares.

          Again. Apologoeis for continuing to ignore you

          • You didn’t anwer my question about how the assets sold by the current government have been bailed out.

            Also I don’t see anyone called Ander posting here

            [Gosman, last week you were requesting that I email you, to sort through some posting issues you were experiencing here on The Daily Blog. I have emailed you but have not had a reply. What’s the problem? – ScarletMod]

            • Who’s Ander? Did you read the article Goose? You are way off topic.

              Some people just can’t get ahead in life because the system is rigged to punish renters, young people with debt. We have created an abomination of an economy and life in New Zealand.

              The Warehouse has played a major role in hollowing out the middle classes of NZ which applies more pressure on social problems. One being suicides.

              If you are frustrated for what ever reason Goose, one reason may be because of unanswered questions. Try reading the OP (OP stands for original post for all you Internet challenged types) and comprehending the OP. Then meet Back here for more discussion.

  2. Its the real reason Jeremy Corbyn is having so much notice taken of himself in the UK….WE NEED A JEREMY CORBYN.
    And we need to get rid of The Banker who is corrupting our country and who will leave us bankrupt by the time he has finished.
    It is so sad to see this country that once led the world in all these areas now at the bottom…but we voted for him. He didnt put bimself there.


      Actually, we need an entire political party like Jeremy Corbyn and we need for the populace to be like Jeremy Corbyn as well. Until that happens, nothing will change.

      We really shouldn’t be waiting around for a hero as they don’t exist.

  3. We are told by WINZ and the government, through their endless, highly repetitive “mantra”, that ALL you need is “a job”, problems solved. So how come that we have some disastrous statistics in suicide, self harm and social and some other ills?

    Maybe the “evidence based” policies we are constantly reminded of are not what they claim they are:


    With a growing precariat, growing insecurity, with endless focus on consumerism, individualism, greed and selfishness, no wonder that other “values” are lost, and few really feel they can belong to anything and anyone anymore.

    I ask myself every day, what is the point, in trying to keep up with the Jones’, when wealth and income inequality are so encrusted and for most at the bottom impossible to overcome?

    Our society is no longer what it once used to be like. Not all we have is progress, but we are constantly told how “good” we have it, that is some in society, I presume.

  4. The Government increasingly wipes its hands of collective support or responsibility, passing it to individuals, families, NGOs or the private sector, none of whom are in a position to address the causes of the problem.

    Some of whom are the cause of the problems.

  5. I think one of the reasons we may have these problems with violence is cultural, and as part of that culture our rigid gender roles for men and women.

    We seem to place value on stoicism. On men being physically strong (we make heroes of our rugby players), having few words and being unemotional. We’re not alone in this, but we do seem to take it to an extreme. And I think this places NZ men at a higher suicide risk; not comfortable with emotion and communicating emotion, not comfortable in reaching out for help. Add to that financial pressures of a low wage high debt economy and you have a recipe for disaster. High unemployment makes it worse.

    We need to change the economy to one that works for people. And we need to change our culture from one that accepts violence and tells men to limit their emotions.

    Regarding the violence, I do believe it is primarily cultural. I do not hold that men are inherently violent and the best the rest of us can do is stay out of their way. It’s a learned behaviour and it can change. If <a href="http://www.upworthy.com/something-fascinating-happened-after-these-male-baboons-died-men-should-keep-this-in-mind?c=reccon3"baboons can change their culture from a violent one to a non violent one, then we humans can too.

  6. The problem is there are not the jobs out there in the economy, look at the number of people who can’t even get an interview at PaknSave or Bunnings. The fact is the jobs are not out there in the economy, that is a fact.

  7. Thank-you Christine Rose.
    I actually could not have written it better.. I see what you describe every single day in NZ in the poorer and indeed even the more affluent suburbs where Thin Lizzy covers bruises better..

    I also see, hear and witness the denial..
    NZ land of the long white fog when it comes to our incredible Rugby/cricket sporting heroes is awesome the land of milk and honey for all..
    I see more bilk and money and underclass be damned..

    I also read beyond the glossy pr..
    Such an amazing little place that ‘punches’ above her weight..
    Doesn’t she just?
    ant therein the irony and the duality of selective suppression..

    As you say all our statistics prove it..even the ones they don’t include..
    Punch drunk.. punch drugged.. punch impoverished.. punch punch..

  8. Nice post and a good call to those who don’t respond because its too shameful.

    You didn’t mention the disproportionate number of men in these statistics. And I think a lot has to do with NZ men being castrated by women who abuse their power as mother on DPB and men being alienated from their children because the DPB is a great ATM machine along with Dads child support.

    I am not knocking, legitimate needs for women to have this benefit when they are in an abusive relationship.

    I am knocking the abuser being women who abuse the opportunity to control and wield power in a sick manipulative way.

    And I have plenty of examples of this in my world among men I know who are not abusers but have been manipulated by women who lie and misuse the courts and law to control and exploit.

    I would like to know how many of these men have been in severe debt created by crushing child support which 1. ties their hands when all they want is to be a good parent 2. financially crushes them

    • And I think a lot has to do with NZ men being castrated by women who abuse their power as mother on DPB…

      Oh, so it’s women’s fault!?!?

      Gosh, who would’ve thought.

      And the DPB, of course. Also at fault.

      Because without the DPB women would be… what? Forced into deep poverty, prostitution, or to stay with abusive partners?

      The entire thrust of your post is that you resent women being (a) independent and (b) men losing authority/power over their women.

      There’s more, but I think I’ve caught the gist of it.

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