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1700 Suicides in New Zealand per year? What has happened to Aotearoa?

By   /  May 29, 2016  /  30 Comments

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The reason we can’t talk about suicide is because we can’t stand to talk about the dark treacle of self hate and loneliness at the core of consumer culture. We don’t dare confront the hollowness of our existence on these far flung crags of rock for fear of what we will reveal about ourselves.

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So the suicide rate, which is already eye wateringly high, may in fact be 3 times as high as we suspect.

That’s almost 1800 deaths a year.

What has gone so wrong in NZ for so many of our friends, family and whanau to end it all by their own hand?

30 years of neoliberalism has much to answer for. The myths state there are no hegemonic power structures within society, that if you succeed it’s because of your hard work, and if you fail, then that’s your fault too.

In a society that has no religious faith and all the cultural maturity of a can of coke, the bonds which keep us attached are frail and disconnected. In our fetishisation of individualism we have lost the central part of the human condition – which is connection.

The Rats don’t turn to drugs because they have ‘rat park’. Humans need connection, they need society, they need to bond. We have spent so much time ignoring the importance of solidarity with one another for a competition of selfishness. It is in such a culture that we see suicide in such horrific numbers.

We have lost our bonds and connections for a race where no one wins.

Talking with those at the frontline of the suicide tsunami they say that screening for mental health isn’t enough, that many are turning up dead without ever having a history of  mental illness. They suggest there is something more damaged at work here.

The reason we can’t talk about suicide is because we can’t stand to talk about the dark treacle of self hate and loneliness at the core of consumer culture. We don’t dare confront the hollowness of our existence on these far flung crags of rock for fear of what we will reveal about ourselves.

Damaged individuals competing for a self identity too fragile for the storms and tempests of life.

Thanks to neoliberalism, we are further from each other than ever before.


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  1. Kera says:

    I disagree, the suicide problem is caused primarily by mental illness, which is exacerbated by hardship and loneliness. People do not share their problems, that is why many don’t have a history of mental illness. We need better education and support on the topic.

  2. Mike in Auckland says:

    I despair in a society where shallowness is the new “normal”, and where consumerism and egotism are the “values” that most try to live up to. We now get such stuff like “beauty apps”, there to condition the young ones into thinking, this is what life is about, trying to be more beautiful than others, to serve the vanity obsession I see in many circles.


    Mesmerised by the small screens of their i-phones and other smart phones, hordes wander around the streets like zombies in a modern day fantasy zombie-land.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      1000% Make in Auckland,

      I am gutted at what this criminal enterprise Nactional have driven our people towards today.

      It seems the crushing poverty and hopelessness of fighting for our collective rights being eroded daily by Nactional is partly responsible for most who seem driven to absolute despair.

      The word DESPAIR is not a word known by this Nactional enterprise nor in their shallow conscience either.

      Where have you ever heard Nactional spin doctors use this word?

      DESPAIR is obviously being banned from use by this bullsshit spin crazy Government enterprise as DESPAIR does not seem to be included in their DNA.

    • jay1 says:

      Across the world people are crying out for change for a New Progressive politics


  3. countryboy says:

    We, all of us, are the witting and unwitting victims of the narcissistic egotism that is our financialised society.
    You @ Martyn Bradbury are, in my humble opinion, absolutely correct in drawing an analogy between ‘ neo liberalism’ and suicide.
    The reason for that, is because no matter how hard we try? We fail. We fail because we’re either too successful in surviving or we fail because we’re too unsuccessful at surviving. The point being; we must fail , no matter what, in order for those few select to harvest their vile crop.
    Weirdly? Only those few who don’t give a fuck will survive unscathed. The rest of us, to a greater or lessor extent, are at risk.
    To those contemplating suicide? I’d suggest you try strangling your nearest politician first. Then once in the after life? Watch on as the Devil gets creative with them.
    I had one of these. And this may help in understanding the greater arsehole out there because you must remember; it’s not your fault.


    • CLEANGREEN says:

      10000-% Country boy.


      DESPAIR= EQUALS drawing an analogy between ‘ neo liberalism’ and suicide.

      • Chooky says:

        Great Post +100 and CLEANGREEN and COUNTRYBOY re an uncaring society and suicide…it is very very tough for New Zealanders these days particularly the young

  4. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Yes, Martyn.

    The entire consumer culture is phony and is based on a set of lies which have been promulgated over many decades.

    And it has been government policy for decades to destroy the fabric of society and replace it with consumerism: corporate profits at any cost to society. The high suicide rate is just another of many dire consequences of the broken society we now live in.

    We have almost reached the end of the line., but not quite.

  5. WILD KATIPO says:

    What a fascinating couple of experiments with the rats… that when they had community they virtually ignored the drug. That’s amazing !

    Also the percentage of Vietnam war soldiers that took drugs during the war then ,- coming back to family/ home etc… drew sustenance from that social environment.

    I guess the same experiment could be conducted with any social animals. We do know zoo animals that are isolated often develop psychosis symptoms,… so of course humans would too. The trick then being… how to ensure community…

  6. Brian Gower says:

    Having come from UK 14 yrs ago, it is very easy to see the difference in culture that makes NZ what it is.
    He first thing I noticed is that people don’t know their neighbours!
    I knew all my neighbours in Uk, but having lived in several different parts of NZ the attitude is always the same , not interested! The funny thing is the only people that will talk and be friendly are other ‘foreigners ‘
    This goes far deeper at work where kiwis are very ‘clique’, won’t talk, keep themselves to themselves and bottle things up.
    Put this together with the ‘ harden up, she’ll be alright ‘ attitude and you have the recipe for people to go on a downward spiral as nobody seems to care about one another and you come across as weak or a whinger if you say anything.
    Kiwis claim to be ‘friendly’ , sorry guys you are most definately NOT!
    You come across all smiles and friendly but in reality you are generally very shallow and false. Example…collections when people leave work….can’t believe how mean people are here, won’t contribute or support one another. Car share? Don’t do that..! Donate organs (lowest rate in devolved world ) , Give way when driving, holding doors open…all got same theme…selfishness and not caring…sad but true.

    • Wensleydale says:

      Yeah, that’s all part of Tourism New Zealand’s smoke and mirrors exercise to persuade gullible foreigners that we’re a joyous nation of cuddly hobbits. Much like 100% Pure, it’s a steaming wheelbarrow full of lies and misinformation. Basically, it’s a case of “Give us your tourism dollars, then bugger off home.”

    • jay1 says:

      Hi Brian

      What you’ve said echoes with me in a word there is no sense of solidarity ( 1.
      union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, as between members of a group or between classes, peoples, etc.:
      to promote solidarity among union members.
      community of feelings, purposes, etc.
      community of responsibilities and interests. )
      but everyone for themself. In fact the others will criticise and undermine you and consider that the natural kiwi way solidarity is for fools get on man! People are afraid here to speak out on important issues because of petty persecution and discrimination that may follow.
      There’s the attitude those who rock the boat probably will pay for it like becoming unemployed. It doesn’t pay to challenge the power hierarchy.

      That so many kiwis are happy to buy and rent out houses to other kiwis for capital gain not caring for the extreme distortion of the market making it impossible for first home buyers to buy their first home shows a lot.

      Also there’s the wealth worship cult here.

      • jay1 says:

        Antonyms of solidarity. How many apply to NZ society?

        feud n.

        rivalry n.

        discord n.


        alienation n.

        competition n.

        difference n.

        disagreement n.discord


        animosity n.

        antagonism n.discord

        discrepancy n.

        disharmony n.

        dispute n.

        dissension n.

        dissent n.

        separation n.discord

        antithesis n.



        The USK however is a bitterly divided society due to class and extreme wealth and income inequality. NZ is still a better place to live. Think of all the OAPs who die of hypothermia each Winter. The current government is making life absolute hell for beneficiaries and the disabled.And they waste trillions on a nuclear delivery system Trident just to keep the Yankees happy while their poor rot. I suspect English solidarity is a hangover from pre Thatcher days.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        “People are afraid here to speak out on important issues because of petty persecution and discrimination that may follow.”

        New Zealand is a little unwritten social norm adhering dictatorship, I consider it part of the puritan, Victorian, protestant heritage, that comes from Britain, and is also evident in some other parts of Europe.

        Due to changes in my tenancy, my landlord has now commissioned a property manager to look after the properties, and now they announced they want to conduct an inspection of the property every three months(!), which I have not heard of any other person having to put up with. But it is the normal procedure in the company that is in charge now.

        And during the first inspection, where I was of course present, many questions were asked, seemingly innocent, supposedly “friendly” questions, but in hindsight, I realise, it was a soft form of interrogation, to find out, what the tenant is all about, does, likes, dislikes and may have in the way of “problem characteristics”.

        Bang, yes, there comes the little social norm dictatorship in at play, sending little hints of control and restrictions. Do not dare stand out too much, or you will be standing out as a sore thumb, hence “tall poppy syndrome” and so forth.

        That is why so many have decided to not bother talking or even thinking about political matters, it is a no-no, as at the work places, most with only small teams, the boss working alongside, every word is heard, taken note of, and registered.

        The boss will not condone any “commies” among his staff, that is where this little place is no different to the mighty USA, maybe Mid West version even, go to the rural provinces, and you get a REAL taste of this.

        So how long will our present day pretended “liberalism” last, when it comes to lesbians and gays, while we have rampant racism and insults being thrown at Maori and others every day, just listen and read carefully, it is pretty obvious, that this “liberal” attitude that some still dare have, will not last forever.

    • Kam says:

      Really interested in your comment Brian Gower. As a NZer who returned with a family after 25 years abroad we have found the same. But we thought it was just Christchurch.

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      Yes, there is a fair bit of truth in what you wrote there, my friend.

      I know what you are talking about, and also see and hear this every day and week in and week out.

      Sad thing is, they grow up like that, too many learn nothing different, and hence think this kind of attitude and behaviour is “normal”, which it is not really, not in most cultures.

      But there are such “hardened types” and “bottling up” types in other cultures also, and the shocking trends we have here, exist in other western, developed countries also, they may look a bit different, but on a whole humanity is moving towards the social and environmental abyss, that is self mutilation and self destruction.

      It hits the more sensitive and vulnerable people first, they may not share their loneliness, pain and sorrow, and suddenly it happens, the sad thing that should not happen.

      Indeed I despair more and more often, the more crap I see going on here.

    • Reject says:

      Very brave to write that Brian, you have probably experenced the abuse that happens if you dare to express anything other than praise for NZ and NZ’ers. You can start to believe how unworthy you are and deserve your rejection.

      Don’t blame the government if neighbours won’t speak to a new comer or when work colleagues never invite you around, that is down to each of you.

      Religion is part of the problem here, there may be some NZers who will check out if you share their particular supernatural beliefs, when you don’t you are now a total heathen to be avoided, the bigotry and insanity of religion (or astrology, crystals, homeopathy…bla …bla) is enough to make any sensible person lose the will to live.

      Walk away from the blog and knock on your neighbours door and invite them in …gasp … yes into your home…. ask how they are and be prepared to listen even when the answer may not boost your ego..or they may not agree with your view of the world.

      Even offer to help them, imagine that…offering to mow someone’s lawn, share lunch or something else real and tangible takes more effort and genuineness (is that a word) than writing a blog, and has the prospect of actually helping people.

      Anyway bravo Brian, your post helped me.

  7. Tough says:

    once a week court ordered counselling session with 30 maori men
    first a quick mention of the attendee who committed suicuide since last week.
    then the next week the same
    and it went on
    just a mention
    no emotion

    • Chooky says:

      pretty sobering!..what is needed is a party of political action for these people ( and NOT Labour ….Labour is a white middle- class neolib party)

      …they say that to take political action is a counter for depression…(lesson learnt from feminist movement)

      (and in times of war there is very little depression and suicide)

      ( I am not advocating violence but an astute and strategic political war against injustice and inequality …neoliberalism, failed laissez faire capitalism)

      ….maybe these guys who are sent for counselling should be encouraged to take political action to counter their feelings of hopelessness and anger …leading to self destruction and violence

      Where is the Mana/Internet Party?

  8. WILD KATIPO says:

    It would be interesting to see the stats following the 1930’s depression in both NZ and the USA… as that was the fall out time frame of Laissez faire ,… a close cousin to neo liberalism.

    Certainly economics can have a direct effect… but also a slow corrosive effect. Economic depression is certainly a mitigating factor as people feel trapped.

    But is it something more insidious , something more in line with sociology , something more to do with modern lifestyles. Is it more or less consistent in rural areas as big urban populations, does it affect one subculture more than another?

    A feeling of constant underachieving when bombarded with consumerism – and not measuring up? A product of being designated a certain class ?

    Family abuse? peer rejection? relational breakdown ? feelings of being entrapped in cultural expectations and labeling? Or a combination of all these things?

    The clip was interesting , but the general topic needs more in-depth analysis for these other mitigating factors perhaps.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      True that there will be a correlation between suicides and financial depressions and their impacts/affects such as the 1930’s and the 10yr cycle of this continuing 2008 financial depression (still not recognised by politicians.)

      There will definitely be a close association between financial depressions and their impacts/affects, and suicide as both involve a mental state of depression from despair.

  9. CLEANGREEN says:

    Thanks TOUGH,

    We feel the pain in these words intimately, as we still have human spirit unlike those administrating the current political regime.

    We all hope and pray a new “kinder compassionate caring Government is on the horizon to replace this despicable regime.

    • Tough says:

      they read from a ppt!! gave up on that counselling and went to oz.
      now have an arrest warrant on me in nz
      wrote to ct saying the counselling was not fit for purpose and about the suicides
      no reply, just said that company is not responsible for court ordered counselling anymore, no investigation
      still have an arrest warrant in nz
      paid for my own counselling here in oz

  10. Andrew says:

    That was quite good until you blamed it all on your favourite bogeyman ‘Neo-liberalism’. Whatever that is.

    However suicide rates were already climbing a decade before Rogernomics got underway.

    My guess is that a large part of the problem is the breakdown of the family unit.
    There is ample parallel evidence that absentee fathers are a major reason for teenagers joining gangs and for single mothers and their boyfriends to abuse children.
    You see, it’s all about connections with family.

    • Chooky says:

      doubt your statistics…where are your links giving statistical and evidential support?

      doubt your blame of suicide on gangs and single mothers? …racist and sexist and right wing bigotry …where are your links and statistics? ( what was the Maori suicide rate pre European?…doubt whether there was any)

      btw…the biggest abusers of children have come from the male clergy in the church…particularly the Catholic Church which always opposed women’s rights…including to to contraception and work outside the family

      (neoliberalism =poverty for many + lack of education opportunity+ lack of housing + lack of jobs + lack of social welfare = lack of hope + depression + suicide )

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      Have you any statistics proving that suicide rates increased in the years before Rogernomics took over our economic and political direction under the Labour government in the mid to late 1980s? Making such bold but unsupported claims is cheap, my friend.

      As for “neoliberalism”, of course the ones defending that kind of system, they will not see this as a negative situation, and they will NOT consider themselves to contribute to the issue, they will see the “positive” in the trend, and offer “solutions” to use the opportunity, to start a tendering system, offering contracts for private providers to make money out of the misery.

      Then at least some (the profit seeking entrepreneurs and “investors”) will be smiling and enjoying life with all the pleasures they can buy from their profits.

    • reason says:

      neo-lib is form of economics where Greed and exploitation are encouraged.

      The natural results of speculators greed are things like children and families living in cars,garages etc.

      It rewards and allows the greediest and most exploitative amongst us to live like kings ………. while the rest are not allowed to live like humans.

      It places no value on clean air or water and see’s them as either as an obstacle to creating ‘wealth’ or something to be exploited.

      It places the opinion of money men like john key over and above scientists on climate change ………. and would rather commit tricky wall st type fraud scamming money ………… than do anything about.

      It makes things like tax havens ‘legal’.

      There is a good movie called ‘shock doctrine’ which tells more .

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