Former coroner calls to Break The Silence on suicide

The next article in a series at NZ Herald on suicide:  Let’s Talk: Former chief coroner Neil MacLean joins call to Break The Silence on suicide

Warning: This article is about youth suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

Former chief coroner Neil MacLean says breaking the silence on suicide could curb the “horrifying” number of young New Zealanders killing themselves.

“This is a drum I’ve been beating for a long time. We cannot ignore the sheer numbers and rate – it’s bigger than the road toll,” said MacLean, who retired from the post in 2015.

New Zealand has the worst teen suicide rate (officially those aged 15-19) in the world and the second worst youth suicide rate (25 and under). Our annual number of deaths has shown no signs of abating in the past 20 years.

In a special series called Break the Silence, the New Zealand Herald is aiming to bring youth suicide out of the shadows. MacLean has been one of the country’s biggest crusaders in this area and said suicide was one of the most difficult issues he faced during his almost 40 years as a coroner.

“Any unexpected death is going to produce a different type of grief, but with a suicide, particularly as it gets younger, there’s a new intensity of grief,” he said. The youngest suicide MacLean was aware of in New Zealand was that of an 8-year-old boy.

“There’s a feeling of waste, blame and anger. Everybody struggles to understand why it is when, generally the will to live is so strong, that a significant proportion of people get to the end where there is no option.”

Misunderstanding breeds fear. “It’s almost as if there’s a fear suicide is something you can catch, almost like an infection, and that if you stomp it out or ignore it, it will go away.

Some think it’s best to bury our head in the sand. Not me,” MacLean told the Herald.

During his time as chief coroner, MacLean controversially kickstarted the release of New Zealand’s annual provisional suicide statistics, allowing the public to see the number of suspected suicides for the first time.

Silence on suicide has been orthodox in New Zealand since the mid-1990s, largely because of a school of thought that talking about the issue could lead to suicidal ideation, copycat deaths or suicide contagion.

MacLean received swift criticism for releasing the statistics at the time, but stands by his decision.

“If people know what’s going on there is a better chance to do something about it. Like start talking about what we can do to help these kids.”

“The reality is, that although there are various theories of sociologists, psychologists and other disciplines, we are no closer to understanding why it is when the substantial majority of the population, including youth, do not commit suicide, and life is seen as precious, a small minority do not see life as precious.

“Despite my long experience in this area, neither do I. However, one thing I am very clear on through contact with thousands of New Zealanders, whether at inquests, lectures, talks, seminars or the like, is that our understanding in this area is still plagued with misinformation, and reluctance in some circles to open up the discussion and to face the reality of this puzzling phenomenon.

“I know from personal experience, most people want more information, particularly when someone they know is involved. What are the signs to look out for and how can they help?

“There are some encouraging signs of a willingness to open up the whole area of self-harming and self-inflicted death in New Zealand. I believe that done properly, such discussion can be beneficial and that to dismiss such discussion as dangerous and unwise is not helpful.”

Full article:

Previous articles:

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

30 Comments

  1. Also from the Herald today: ‘We have got to do things differently’: Health Minister on suicide rate

    New Zealand has got to pull together to address an appalling suicide rate that could be partly caused by the pressures that come with social media, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

    “We have got to do a lot better – 579 suicides in New Zealand last year. We want to see that number come down,” Coleman said today.

    “We have got to do things differently … we have certainly got to strive to do better. It’s not just a health issue, it is across education, MSD [the Ministry of Social Development], the whole of society – not just a Government problem. It is an issue for families, for schools, sports clubs. It needs a whole of society response.”

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  July 6, 2017

    Neil makes excellent and accurate comments based on long experience. This in particular is both deadly accurate and thoroughly damning of past policies:

    “The reality is, that although there are various theories of sociologists, psychologists and other disciplines, we are no closer to understanding why it is when the substantial majority of the population, including youth, do not commit suicide, and life is seen as precious, a small minority do not see life as precious.

    “Despite my long experience in this area, neither do I. However, one thing I am very clear on through contact with thousands of New Zealanders, whether at inquests, lectures, talks, seminars or the like, is that our understanding in this area is still plagued with misinformation, and reluctance in some circles to open up the discussion and to face the reality of this puzzling phenomenon.

    • Trumpenreich

       /  July 6, 2017

      “we are no closer to understanding why…this puzzling phenomenon ”

      I don’t think suicide is one of the mysteries of the Universe.

      Life is a battle – some get it a lot easier, some get it a lot harder, some people are stronger than others.

      • Gezza

         /  July 6, 2017

        What do you think should happen to the weak ones?

        • Gezza

           /  July 6, 2017

          Just answer when you’re strong enough.

          • Trumpenreich

             /  July 6, 2017

            LOL, I just pointed out suicide is not a profound mystery and you get your panties in a twist.

            • Gezza

               /  July 6, 2017

              1. I don’t wear panties. Please don’t project your festishes onto me.
              2. I was just curious. What’s your answer?

            • Trumpenreich

               /  July 6, 2017

              ” I was just curious. ”

              You are being untruthful. Why?

            • Gezza

               /  July 6, 2017

              You are no more able to read my mind than I am yours. All I can go on is what you write. So I was curious, given your choice of handle, what your answer to my question was. Why don’t you just answer the question?

            • Gezza

               /  July 6, 2017

              It’s ok. No one knows who you are. You’re in a safe place.
              You can talk about it…

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  July 6, 2017

        Why does it only affect humans?

        • Trumpenreich

           /  July 6, 2017

          #Lemmings Lives Matter

        • Corky

           /  July 6, 2017

          Because we are a universal aberration…we have a subconscious mind. It’s a part of us most have little control over. It records 24/7 and makes many weird connections from data received. It then gestates that information without any discrimination and all of a sudden we don’t like beans, and believe National are corrupt.. The subconscious also controls our timelines and emotional body.

          Other beings are quite lucky, they live in the present moment, have limited ability to self reflect and travel down timelines. You don’t see lions go into depression because their prey got away. They simply try again because they can’t reflect on their failure and develop complexes about that failure.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  July 6, 2017

            My point. It isn’t simple.

          • patupaiarehe

             /  July 6, 2017

            Every once in a while, Corky, you write something really profound & true. As they say at ‘The Standard’, +100

      • Conspiratoor

         /  July 6, 2017

        Agreed tr, political correctness and modern parenting have a lot to answer for. Thank God I raised my kids free of this b.s.. They were taught at the school of hard knocks

        • Gezza

           /  July 6, 2017

          I think he might be two inches taller & lot more muscly on a keyboard than in real life.

          • Conspiratoor

             /  July 6, 2017

            I detect an undercurrent of anger G, but I’m damned if I can deduce height and weight. Small man’s syndrome.

            • Conspiratoor

               /  July 6, 2017

              Trailing question mark omitted

            • Gezza

               /  July 6, 2017

              Hard to say. He comes here all I’m strong that’s all there is & there ain’t no more, & I thought that we could have an interesting discussion but he seems to have wimped out. Buggered if I know why. Badly fails the mind-reading test is all I know so far.

            • Conspiratoor

               /  July 6, 2017

              You go too deep too early G. No sense of timing. Please don’t take this the wrong way but do you have a thousand yard stare?

            • Gezza

               /  July 6, 2017

              No worries, written him off already on this topic. Watching Inside Story – it’s about all the Saudi terrorists fighting alongside Al Nusra & ISIS.

            • Gezza

               /  July 7, 2017

              Thousand yard stare? I just looked that up. No way buddy. The Reichmeister spotted my stare. That little flash, the little glint you wonder if you just saw in the undergrowth.

  3. patupaiarehe

     /  July 6, 2017

    So, getting back on topic…

    There’s a feeling of waste, blame and anger. Everybody struggles to understand why it is when, generally the will to live is so strong, that a significant proportion of people get to the end where there is no option.

    Like anything in life, one can’t really ‘appreciate’ depression, until one has experienced it themself. From the outside, someone with severe depression appears completely normal, because they are putting all the energy they have into doing so. They are dying inside, but at the same time, know that they shouldn’t feel the way that they do. Which then makes them feel even worse. Those who are close to them, will notice subtle changes, and say things like “Snap out of it bro, life isn’t that shitty!”. Which isn’t helpful, because the depressed individual knows this is true, but still feels the same.

    • patupaiarehe

       /  July 7, 2017

      I always thought this song was about alcoholism, until somebody suggested it was about depression. Watching the video again, it makes complete sense…

  4. Colin

     /  July 6, 2017

    “Our annual number of deaths has shown no signs of abating in the past 20 years.” This from the article. It annoys me when this becomes so political 100 days out from an election when the stats show that while the situation hasn’t improved in 20 yrs it has not gotten worse either. This should always be an issue, not just because an election looms.

    • Gezza

       /  July 7, 2017

      Pretty sure it has come up between elections as well. Should all issues be put on the back burner 100 days before elections?

  1. Former coroner calls to Break The Silence on suicide — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition