Suicide, Mental Illness and Maori People


Globally, authorities and “experts” continually assert that suicide is a major public health concern and it is preventable. However, decades of suicide prevention strategies have seen “more of the same” action plans but no change in the upward suicide trend. Therefore, the current suicide prevention model is less relevant to indigenous and minority populations with a high suicide rate. Current suicide statistics for Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous population are unacceptably high. The Maori suicide rate is about 19 per 100,000 roughly averaging about 104 deaths per year over the last six years. Maori claim that before colonisation suicide was non-existent. There is certainly evidence to support such a claim. e.g., historical suicide data suggested that the number of Maori youth suicide deaths was less than five until the 1970s and 1980s. Maori now have the dubious honour of having the highest rates of mortality and morbidity outcomes, including higher rates of suicide. Neither Maori nor the authorities responded with an action plan when suicide numbers spiked in 1960 and 1967. Subsequently, the number of suicides rose sharply to over one hundred where they stayed. It is plausible that exposure to Western ideals as well as social insensitivity to Maori beliefs and needs may have led to a cultural dealignment during the1960s and 1970s. This cultural shift also may be due to the application of a Western model of suicide prevention based on mental illness. The Western model does not work in preventing suicide and conflicts with indigenous cultures.

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Shahtahmasebi, S. and Cassidy, B. (2014) Suicide, Mental Illness and Maori People. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 87-94. doi: 10.4236/jss.2014.28014.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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