“No evidence’ supporting rumour suicide rates have increased under lockdown

A press release from the Mental Health Foundation:


There Is No Evidence New Zealand’s Suicide Rates Have Increased Over Lockdown

The Mental Health Foundation is deeply disappointed to see a rumour circulating that there has been a dramatic increase in suicides in New Zealand over the lockdown period.

“There is absolutely no truth to this rumour,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “It is totally irresponsible and untrue.”

The Foundation is concerned at the level of credibility given to such claims, which it has seen popping up with increasing frequency, and urges both the public and journalists to carefully consider their sources of information.

“There are very few people in the country who are able to accurately assess numbers of suicides at a national level in real-time,” Mr Robinson says. “It is critically important not to contribute to misunderstandings and false information about suicide in New Zealand.

“While mental health workers, police and other people are an integral part of New Zealand’s suicide prevention efforts, individuals will not be able to give an accurate picture of national suicides.”

The Foundation is particularly worried about the impact these rumours will have on people who are currently vulnerable to suicide.

“Whenever we have a public discussion about suicide, people who are currently suicidal or who are vulnerable to suicide are always listening,” Mr Robinson says. “It’s often not possible to tell who these people are, particularly online. But they’re there, and, often, they are looking for reasons to justify or rationalise how they’re feeling – they’re very vulnerable to the suggestion that if others are taking this path then they could take it too. We should not be adding to this serious risk.

“These rumours and their accompanying commentary imply that suicide is an expected, understandable and proportionate response to COVID-19, and that’s both untrue and an extremely unhelpful thing to suggest.”

The Foundation strongly encourages anyone who sees this rumour to refrain from sharing or publishing it, even if it is to correct it. Sharing misinformation, even with the best of intentions, causes further harm.

“This is a tough time for New Zealanders, but we’re seeing a lot of goodwill toward working together and supporting each other to get through,” Mr Robinson says. “We know it’s been hard, but we’re heartened to see how many people have found the positives in lockdown and are actively working to do things that support their own mental health and care for others. We feel incredibly proud of New Zealanders.”

Need to talk? You can free call or text 1737 to chat with a trained counsellor. They’re available 24/7.

Leave a comment

38 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  3rd May 2020

    The Black Ops at work in election year…again.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd May 2020

      Could be. Or could just be one of those rumours that get started & get traction & there’s nothing more behind it than a person who posted their opinion online in social media – maybe in anger or sadness after the loss of someone important thru suicide – & it just starts spreading because it triggers other people’s memories & feelings about suicides of their friends or family members – & it sounds like it could be true.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd May 2020

      Interesting. But do increased calls to mental health assistance lines mean an increase in suicides as well?

      I dunno who puts the stats together nor how much of a time lag there is in reporting official numbers.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  3rd May 2020

        If there are no official numbers where does the MHF get its “facts” from?

        Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd May 2020

        Have they been doing TV advertising during this period ?

        this was interesting Its a private service who ‘owns’ the Mental health Line
        ” After an extensive tender process in June 2015 the Ministry of Health awarded a $257.6 million tender to Homecare Medical to develop and deliver a new integrated national telehealth service. The partnership commenced on 1 November 2015 and is for a term of 10 years with an end date of 30 June 2025.”
        One of the directors is ROGER SOWRY, “the well known counsellor”

        They bypassed the existing telephone community based services . Youthline , Samritans etc
        https://www.telehealth.org.nz/telehealth-forum/partners/homecare-medical/

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  3rd May 2020

          So nearly 26 million a year,over 2 million a month,$500,000 a week to a National Party crony that achieves???

          Private enterprise eh…what an earner!

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  3rd May 2020

            Merely a director.. it seems to ‘owned’ by a wide group of GPs who have tiny shares. maybe the counselors the phone lines recommend are local GPs?

            Reply
      • oldlaker

         /  3rd May 2020

        As far as I know, a death isn’t recorded as a suicide until the coroner rules it is. So the phrase “there is no evidence” is likely correct, but why would anyone expect there not to be a surge in suicides?
        In the Great Depression, the suicide rate in the United States increased from 17.0 per 100,000 people in 1929 to 21.3 in 1932, which is a 25 per cent increase.
        I suspect the NZ figure is more likely to be 16 a week (a roughly 25% increase on the usual 13) than 61.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  3rd May 2020

          you are full of hunches today old…chap.

          When do you think your lemons will be ripe for picking?

          Reply
          • artcroft

             /  3rd May 2020

            Hunches…assumptions.. same thing …pot.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  3rd May 2020

              you are missing the context …kettle.

              They are not the same at all.

        • Duker

           /  3rd May 2020

          Lets call them ‘taken their own life , as of course Suicide needs ‘evidence of intent’ and a ruling as such.

          Reply
  2. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  3rd May 2020

    Do you think Dr Sundborn is making up this up:

    our team has received e-mails from District Health Board members who state that suicides have increased during the lockdown.?

    http://www.covidplanb.co.nz/our-posts/counting-the-hidden-costs-of-staying-home-to-save-lives/

    Reply
  3. duperez

     /  3rd May 2020

    Dr Sundborn isn’t making it up. She has some figures about some things and some anecdotal comments. The problem is when the veracity of one lot injects veracity into the other.

    Then you get stuff which isn’t necessarily the truth made out to be the truth, and it winds up as headlines on certain blog sites spouted as pre-election facts.

    Reply
    • Maggy Wassilieff

       /  3rd May 2020

      Gerhard Sundborn is a male.

      Over the last couple of weeks there have been a number of important folk indicating that our suicide rate might go up:
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/121052665/coronavirus-suicide-ptsd-to-rise-significantly-after-covid19-report-predicts

      Strange that no-one wants to jump on Prof Gluckman and others for talking about this…

      Much easier to blame Judith Collins, me thinks.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd May 2020

        “Much easier to blame Judith Collins, me thinks”

        Shes happy to pile in when it suits political purposes… and stay quiet when the politics isnt going her way.
        She was a ‘star’ of the Dirty Politics show as much as Slater was

        Reply
        • “She was a ‘star’ of the Dirty Politics show as much as Slater was”

          I think that’s patently false.

          She was both a player and a victim but certainly not a ‘star’.

          Reply
      • The Stuff article is a couple of weeks ago and talks about predictions.

        I haven’t read everything that’s been said about suicide in the last month. nor have I tried to read every reaction.

        Collins promoted a tweet that didn’t look at all authoritative to me. As an MP and ex Minister I think she should have known better.

        Reply
        • Maggy Wassilieff

           /  3rd May 2020

          As far as I can see Judith Collins wrote “This is so dreadful”, which is what most people would think if they had read a tweet relating an increase in suicide numbers.

          Where is the evidence Judith Collins promoted the tweet?

          There’s a double standard running here…

          This blog is “promoting” the tweet story.

          Reply
          • An MP commenting on a tweet promotes it and gives it some credence, which this tweet appears to not deserve.

            Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson: “There is absolutely no truth to this rumour, it is totally irresponsible and untrue.”

            When I first saw the tweet I thought it looked obviously suspect. Any MP should have taken care before adding their name to the twitter thread.

            Reply
          • This blog promoted the Mental Health Foundation response to the rumour.

            Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd May 2020

    The obvious unanswered question is whether there is any evidence that suicides have not increased?

    If not the MHF has no basis to claim there is no evidence in the other direction since it can’t know all the possible sources of such evidence.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd May 2020

      Guessing here but maybe they were keen to publicly scotch the rumour asap for fear of it tipping some people on the edge over it & taking their own lives instead of serking counselling. My own opinion is that suicides probably have increased.

      I know little about the suicide rates in Nz. It doesn’t get a lot attention until some celebrity is lamented with the language used to report it making it pretty obvious they took their own life.

      My cuzzie farmer & ICU nurse surprised me a few years ago when she told me of the tragic self-inflicted death of a farming friend & said that the suicide rate among Nz farmers in financial difficulties with the banks (often on the verge of losing the generations-owned family farm) was very high.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  4th May 2020

        The information has been deliberately suppressed for many years. The MHF is reaping what it has sowed.

        Reply
  1. “No evidence’ supporting rumour suicide rates have increased under lockdown — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s