King slams suicide prevention plan

Mike King has resigned from the suicide prevention panel, slamming their draft plan as ‘saying everything and promising nothing’, and full of PC jargon. What he cited on the news tonight did sound like vague PC claptrap.

Stuff: Suicide prevention strategy ‘the responsibility of all of us’

Comedian and mental health advocate Mike King has resigned from New Zealand’s suicide prevention panel, saying the Government’s draft plan is “deeply flawed”.

But it’s not just the Government’s plan, the Ministry of Health has pointed out. It’s a framework for how New Zealanders can work together to reduce suicide, and Kiwis are encouraged to take part in the public consultation process.

King has been a member of the panel since it was set up in December, 2015.

On Monday, King sent his letter of resignation to Ministry of Health’s director of mental health, Dr John Crawshaw.

In the letter, King said he felt increasingly concerned about aspects of the draft plan, which is open to public consultation.

I presume this is what is being referred to:  A Strategy to Prevent Suicide in New Zealand 2017 – Draft for public consultation

 


From About this draft strategy:

We want a New Zealand in which everyone is able to have a healthy future and see their life as worth living. Reducing suicidal behaviour will help us become this kind of country. Suicidal behaviour is a sign of great distress and impacts on the lives of all of us in some way. Other changes that will help people to have a healthy future include increasing employment and education, and decreasing violence.

This draft strategy sets out a framework for how we can work together to reduce suicidal behaviour in New Zealand, by both focusing on prevention and supporting people while they are in distress and after suicidal behaviour.

Suicidal behaviour occurs in many different places and affects the lives of many people. This draft strategy takes a broader view than previous strategies and considers how different sectors and the whole community can contribute. It also focuses more strongly on preventing suicidal behaviour throughout a person’s life, as well as on integrating and coordinating services and support to prevent suicidal behaviour and help people in distress.

This draft strategy has been developed by a cross-government working group. This draft strategy and the work throughout the country to prevent suicidal behaviour sit alongside a range of other government strategies, policies and programmes of work aimed at improving people’s lives and responding more effectively to the needs of the most vulnerable individuals, families and whānau. It also reflects the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

This draft strategy is a public consultation document. It offers an opportunity to change how we think and talk about suicidal behaviour, and how we combine our efforts to achieve a shared goal. Government agencies would like your feedback on the draft strategy and your thoughts on how to turn this framework into practical action. After the consultation period, we will consider this feedback as the final strategy is developed. When Cabinet approves the final strategy, it will become the next New Zealand suicide prevention strategy.

Terms used

This draft strategy contains words related to suicide that have different meanings to different people. It uses these terms with the following meanings in mind.

  • Suicide – a death where evidence shows that the person deliberately brought about their own death. In New Zealand a coronial ruling decides whether a death is classified as suicide.
  • Attempted suicide – any action or actions where people intentionally try to bring about their own death but they do not die and may or may not be injured.
  • Deliberate or intentional self-harm – behaviour or behaviours where people try to hurt themselves on purpose but do not intend to die and they may or may not be injured.
  • Suicidal ideation – thoughts of intentionally killing oneself.
  • Suicidal behaviour – suicide, attempted suicide, deliberate or intentional self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Ardern’s Congress speech

Jacinda Ardern has given the key Saturday speech at Labour’s election year Congress, and has announced new policy on mental health.

Labour on Facebook:

And today, Jacinda Ardern has announced that we’ll deliver comprehensive health services to every state secondary school. These services have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide by two thirds.

We’ll make mental health an absolute priority.

It’s great to put more priority on dealing with mental health issues – in the shorter term this may put more pressure ion the Government to take more action.

But I question this claim: “These services have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide by two thirds”.  There’s no way of knowing in advance what degree of success it might have.

Ardern’s speech:

A curious personal intro to her speech by Ardern, trying to appeal to a social media audience.

Stuff reports: Labour promises a nurse in every secondary school

An emotional Jacinda Ardern has spoken about her grief at losing a childhood friend to suicide.

Speaking to Labour’s election year congress, Ardern put youth mental health on the political agenda, with a promise to place a nurse into every public secondary school.  Schools will also get the support of a GP.

“Evidence around existing services shows where students had more time with on-site professionals there was significantly less depression and suicide risk. Depression and suicide risk were up to two thirds lower in schools with comprehensive health services. Early intervention works.”

Ardern revealed that as a 13-year-old in Morrinsville, her best friend’s brother took his own life.

“I had just started high school and was waiting for class to start when I heard the news, I can remember exactly where I was standing, just outside the science block.

“I went straight to my friend’s home and spent the next few days with her as her and her family went through the unimaginable grief of losing their only boy, grief that was felt by everyone that knew him, and was captured in the handwritten notes and messages from his classmates that hung around the walls at his funeral. Every single thing about it seemed unfair and still does to this day.”

Ardern said school based health services were introduced by Labour in 2008  but were currently only funded directly for nurses in decile 1-3 public secondary schools, teen parent units and alternative education facilities.”

Under Saturday’s announcement, the average secondary school would have a full time nurse and also the support of a GP.

The cost would be around $40 million a year, funded out of Labour’s commitment to reverse National’s $1.7 billion of health cuts.

That doesn’t sound a lot in the whole scheme of things. The question to ask is whether it’s the most effective way to deal with a big problem.

Personal experiences can be a powerful driver of change that matters.

Full text: Jacinda Ardern: Labour Congress Speech

Netflix stirs up suicide debate

A show on Netflix has caused controversy over openly depicting and discussing suicide.

New Zealand has long had a code of silence on the substantial problem of suicide – or at times coded messages like reporting on sudden deaths as “no suspicious circumstances”.

Some have believed that talking openly about suicides will encourage more suicides, but despite only very cautious changes to reporting on and discussing suicide New Zealand’s suicide statistics remain alarmingly high.

RNZ last year: Insight: The Horror of NZ’s Suicide Rates

Suicide rates in New Zealand have remained unacceptably high since declines in the 1990s, despite a decade-long prevention plan and strategy.

The figures are so high that suicide is the third highest cause of death after heart disease and lung cancer.

eight_col_provisional_suicide_stats

The most recent finalised statistics from the Ministry of Health show that in 2012, just over 3000 people were treated in hospital after a suicide attempt, having seriously harmed themselves. In 2011, New Zealand’s youth suicide rate was the second highest in the OECD.

That increased last year.

NZ suicide toll: More discussion needed to bring down ‘unacceptably high’ rate, Chief Coroner says

During the 2016 financial year (July 2015 to June 2016), 579 Kiwis took their own lives – compared to 564 during the previous year.

While the number of people to die by suicide was at an all-time high, the rate of suicide per 100,000 people was slightly below the rate in 2011.

In 2016, the rate of people who took their own lives hit 12.33 for every 100,000 Kiwis, compared to 12.65 in 2011.

The suicide rate is awfully high regardless of minor year to fluctuations.

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said the rate of people dying by suicide remained consistent and showed New Zealand had a long way to go in turning this “unacceptably high” total around.

There needed to be more discussion about suicide prevention and how family, friends and colleagues could identify someone at risk and help them get professional support.

“Everyone should recognise the importance of taking suicidal thoughts seriously and knowing where to get help,” Marshall said.

But a show that shows scenes of suicide made available recently on Netflix has been criticised.

Newshub: Teen series under fire for graphic rape, suicide scenes

A new Netflix series that targets teens and features graphic scenes of suicide and rape is being accused of seriously putting youths at risk.

13 Reasons Why centres on the self-inflicted death of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who leaves behind 13 tapes – one for each of the people she says caused her to end her life.

It premiered a fortnight ago and has become the most widely shared streaming show on social media ever.

Critically, 13 Reasons Why has received generally favourable reviews, with a 76 rating on Metacritic.

But in New Zealand it has been criticised.

New Zealand’s Mental Health Foundation is joining a chorus of experts around the world accusing the show for being potentially harmful.

“It’s actually quite an unethical programme and it’s really exploiting young people and their concerns, and trivialising topics around mental health and suicide,” chief executive Shaun Robinson told Radio NZ.

“I am very concerned about the very graphic and detailed portrayal of how Hannah takes her own life… I’m very concerned that this could seriously put young people’s lives at risk.”

The Spinoff had 17-year-old Kiwi Bree Brown write an article on her concerns about the show.

13 Reasons Why glorifies suicide and mental illness, and that’s a huge risk given what we know about the suicide contagion phenomenon. I hope that parents understand that while [it] is accurate in some respects… there’s a lot about it that is just wrong,” writes Ms Brown.

However it has prompted discussions – RNZ: Netflix show prompts parents to discuss suicide prevention

Parents, teachers and social workers have met to seek advice on how to deal with the topic of suicide following the release of controversial Netflix show 13 Reasons Why.

About 30 people gatherered at Glen Eden library in Auckland last night to hear about suicide prevention and talked about the impact of the series in which a teenage girl kills herself.

The event was organised by Live Talks, a group that meets once a month to discuss issues of the day.

Also from RNZ: Teen suicide series ‘resonating with young people’

13 Reasons Why, which went online two weeks ago worldwide, is about a teenager called Hannah Baker who commits suicide.

The Mental Health Foundation has described the programme as irresponsible, unsafe, and unethical, and said the show should never have been released because it was putting young people at risk.

Counsellors also said the show was putting vulnerable people who were struggling with suicidal thoughts at risk.

But Paul Stevens, a teacher at Albany Senior High School, told RNZ the programme was resonating with young people.

“Young people are already talking about these things. It’s something that’s already a real issue in New Zealand, and when you do have the highest rate of teen suicide in the OECD, and also deals with consent, and rape, and it’s really resonated with young people in New Zealand, I think.”

Mr Stevens said parents should watch the show alongside their children to make sure the young people have emotional support.

Trying to suppress news about suicides and discussions about suicides does not seem to have helped with awful rates of attempted and successful suicides in New Zealand, especially amongst young people.

Talking about suicide more openly may risk some prompting some people to consider or attempt suicide. But surely it being open and honest about the problem and the many issues around it must generally help address it.

‘A problem shared is a problem solved’ may not always work, but suffering in silence must leave people at greater risk.

With the Internet it’s impossible to stop access to items about suicide anyway.  Netflix makes it more easily accessible to more young New Zealanders,

But forcing discussion into the open must be better than sweeping suicide under the carpet and quietly burying over 500 New Zealanders a year, well over one a day on average.

Talking about it to someone you trust is an obvious option that should be encouraged. RNZ lists many other ways to get help.


Where to get help:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
  • Sparx online e-therapy tool for young people
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What’s Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children’s helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
  • OUTline 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support on sexuality or gender identity
  • If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111

Falling from the heights of rugby stardom

Last week it was reported that ex-Wallaby Dan Vickerman had died – some reports didn’t state a cause but appended ‘helpline’ links, while others were open about it being suicide.

There was discussion about the difficulty many rugby and other sports stars had in transitioning to more normal and more anonymous lives.

It’s the silence that kills us: The sad case of Dan Vickerman

There was also news that Dan Carter had been arrested for drunk driving.

Dan Carter loses sponsorship deal after drink driving charge

NZ should man up like Dan Carter to face our sport and alcohol problem – Steve Stannard

There are still strong and contentious links between alcohol and sport. But alcohol isn’t the only problem drug.

Blues coach Tana Umaga seeking ‘clarity’ around Patrick Tuipulotu’s situation

Blues coach Tana Umaga is remaining tight-lipped on the situation surrounding his absent lock Patrick Tuipulotu after authorities confirmed being alerted to a positive drugs test from the player on the All Blacks’ northern tour last November.

After Fairfax Media revelations that the 24-year-old Blues and All Blacks lock’s career was in limbo following a failed drugs test, both New Zealand Rugby and NZ’s Players’ Association on Sunday confirmed the key facts in the situation.

In a joint statement, NZR and the NZRPA said Tuipulotu was shocked by the result and “working hard to identify the source of the specified substance”.

Patrick Tuipulotu cleared of doping charge

But performance enhancing drugs hover over sports these days. There can be a fine line between banned drugs and legal ‘enhancers’.

Tributes flow for former All Blacks forward Sione Lauaki, dead at 35

Mark Reason: After the death of Dan Vickerman the cult of silence is killing too many of our young men

This week I was contacted by David Briggs, a former Chief and captain of Tonga. He wants to go into things “too much”. I think we should stand up and applaud him. The telling of Briggs’s story shows the late Lauaki respect. It shows that Briggs wants to make a difference for the kids of the future. It shows a great deal of courage.

Briggs, who is now 46 years of age, said, “I started taking creatine in 1998. We were all on creatine. I got huge on it. I went from 114kg to 125kg in a matter of weeks. We didn’t know what we were really taking. We were just told it worked.

“But it didn’t feel right. Our bodies got big, but lots of people’s stomachs were playing up. I got cramps and was getting sick. I cannot be sure, but creatine’s killing all the boys. Jonah reckoned it was part of the reason he was sick.

“I was Lauaki. I got in trouble with the law and alcohol. I don’t drink anymore. I had to give alcohol away or go to jail. I woke up in a cell and went before a judge. Either I changed or I would lose everything.

“I retired from the Chiefs in 2004, but I am still getting headaches. I had heaps of concussions. I suffered depression big-time from those head knocks. I don’t think I will ever be right. I accept I will have depression for the rest of my life and a lot of memory loss. I go to the fridge and think, ‘Shit, what did I need?’ It’s just cos I played rugby without a mouthguard.

“We didn’t think about the future. I’m here now and I’m going, ‘Damn’. The young ones need to be careful. I believe creatine is killing all the boys. I can’t be 100 per cent certain. But all the Pacific Islanders are having problems now.

Former All Black Byron Kelleher arrested in France for domestic violence

And now news involving an ex All Black and an ex Wallaby:

Former All Black Ali Williams arrested on alleged cocaine charge

Former All Black Ali Williams has been sidelined by his club in Paris, after being arrested on suspicion of trying to buy cocaine.

As our Paris correspondent Catherine Field reports, Williams was picked up outside a nightclub along with former Wallabies star James O’Connor.

“He was taken in by police at around 3 o’clock Saturday morning Paris time, the two men were spotted by plain clothed drug enforcement officers, trying to buy cocaine.

Apparently they were trying to pay around 200 euros in cash for the cocaine.”

As Field reports, his club Racing has already put him on suspension.

“They say that they want to respect the presumption of innocence- he’s only been charged, he hasn’t been been found guilty of this crime yet, however, they go on in the statement to say this would be a major violation of the clubs ethics.”

Presumption of innocence unless proven guilty – but I think France has a difference system of justice.

France has been a very lucrative place to go for retired international rugby players. It also seems to be a risky place to go, where heaps of money and leisure time seems to easily lead to trouble.

Claim that talk of euthanasia encourages suicides

Bob McCoskrie has made an odd claim about the euthanasia Parliamentary select committee discussions – he has suggested it is encouraging suicides, but he says there is no scientific basis for this.

NZ Herald: Talk of euthanasia encouraging suicides, conservative lobby group says

Bob McCoskrie, the national director for Family First, said today that suicides and attempted suicides appeared to peak every time Parliament debated a law change around assisted dying.

He acknowledged there was no scientific basis for his theory and that other factors could have contributed to the rise in suicides in 1995, 2003 and 2012, when Parliament considered bills or proposed bills on euthanasia.

“But it cannot ruled out that there is risk related to the increased publicity given to the idea of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

Many things “can’t be ruled out” but making claims like this with nothing to substantiate it is poor in a submission from Family First.

It also can’t be ruled out that openly talking about euthanasia, and openly talking about suicide, helps lead to prevention of suicides.

McCoskrie made the comments to a select committee which is investigating public attitudes to voluntary euthanasia and deciding whether it should be legalised in New Zealand.

McCoskrie said any discussion of suicide should focus on prevention.

“In complete contrast, this inquiry is initiated and is driven by a desire to promote assisted suicide. You don’t discourage suicide by assisting suicide.”

The euthanasia discussions have only come up this year, and there are no recent statistics on suicide rates so it’s impossible to tell whether McCoskrie is right.

McCoskrie hasn’t attempted to analyse trends and patterns, but avoiding talking about suicide in public, as has been the norm in the past, has done nothing to stem the growing number of suicides in New Zealand.

When publishing items on suicide media commonly also publishes help line numbers and links to resources about suicide prevention. Trying to ignore a growing problem hasn’t worked.

And:

One of the committee’s members, Labour MP Louisa Wall, said his argument was “fundamentally flawed” because he did not differentiate between medically-assisted dying and suicide.

“I don’t see them as congruent,” she said. “There is a huge contrast between people who are facing imminent death and people who are hopeless or depressed.”

“To say that someone like [euthanasia advocate] Lecretia Seales was committing suicide is just wrong.”

But to some people, like McCoskrie, anything other than letting life and death take it’s natural course is wrong.

Except that medical interventions that prolong life seem to have become acceptable.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

In a dark place?

A 24 year old Auckland politician has just died, which going by reports has shocked many people and has initiated a lot of comment, including here.  The cause of her death, while mostly unspecified, seems obvious.

This is just one death out of on average more than one a day in New Zealand (over 500 per year) of the traditionally unspoken epidemic, suicide.

Most if not all of us find ourselves in a dark place in our lives, in our minds, to some degree at some time.

I have touched on dark places, fortunately without being drawn too deeply into despair. I can sort of understand how it might happen, to reach the darkest of places in life that can lead to a total and permanent darkness.

I know, and have heard, that a common cause of contemplating suicide is a conviction that others would be better off without you. But suicide is far more likely to hurt rather than help those who matter. This quote was posted yesterday:

So you want to end it, to teach a lesson to the people who have upset you? They don’t care, and still won’t care once you’re gone.

You might not realise this at the moment, but there are people who do care about you. And they have no idea about how bad you feel right now.

The people who do care about you are the only people you are going to hurt by doing this…

If you’re in a dark place but care about people, try talking to them. They are likely to show that they care about you, they want you, and can help you out of your dark place.

If you don’t have anyone close you can talk to there are others that can help.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

 

The Nation – male suicide, housing and US politics

On The Nation this morning…

Auckland housing again:

Has the Government done enough to tackle Auckland’s housing crisis? Newshub’s political editor Patrick Gower asks Housing Minister Nick Smith.

Same old.

Smith says he can’t force private landowners to build.

Smith says the best way to fight land banking is to create a competitive market … cites Chch as an example.

Last year Smith wrote to four developers to ask them to contact the Council with a time frame for development.

Smith sticks by his previous comments that he wants a house price to income multiple of 4.

MBIE figures show it’ll be 2030 before Auckland’s housing shortfall will be met.

Male suicide (‘the silent epidemic’):

Last year 428 New Zealand men took their own lives. Three times more men die by suicide than women, leading some experts to call male suicide a silent epidemic

This week The Nation investigates what causes men to take this step and what can be done to prevent it.

takes a look at a new prevention programme.

NOTE: If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865

And US politics:

And Paddy also talks Trump with Philip Rucker, a Washington Post political correspondent.

says the Trump campaign is “flailing”.

Suicide rate much higher than reported?

Stuff reports that “30 or more people a week are committing suicide – three times the number recorded by coroners.”

That’s 4 a day and would be 1500 or more a year. In the year to May 2015 there were 569 “listed as having died by suicide or suspected suicide”, itself a record high.

The story of one woman, a suicide note, and blind justice

On a notepad next to her bed, she had written a suicide note. 

That is where her mother found her – a 26-year-old Wellington artist, loved by her family and all who knew her.

Her father is speaking out this weekend after a coroner ruled there was not enough evidence to prove “whether she was then mentally capable of forming an intention to take her life”, despite hearing the details of the events leading up to her death and the suicide note.

“It begs the question whether the numbers are real,” said.

“The statistics need to be right so that the right amount of funds are allocated to the mental health sector.”

The statistics need to be right so the seriousness of the problem can be openly recognised.

From June 2014 to May 2015, 569 people are officially listed as having died by suicide or suspected suicide – the highest number ever recorded in New Zealand.

Officially, at least 11 people a week die by suicide. But Timaru-based GP Dr Oliver Bourke warned that the true number could be three times higher. “I honestly think people have no idea how many people die by suicide,” he said. “These figures are awful.”

If a coroner is not satisfied that a death can be ruled a suicide, then it is classified under a different category, like an accident, or the cause is simply declared undetermined. 

“If they don’t want to call it a suicide, it’s got to be classified as self-inflicted,” the woman’s father said.

Former Chief Coroner Neil MacLean said the number of recorded suicides in New Zealand should be taken “with a large grain of salt”.

“Some people could fall through the gaps because just relying on raw suicide numbers isn’t giving us the true number,” he said.

Judge MacLean said each case was judged on whether the evidence proved the person deliberately intended to take their life. 

“That would include making a determination that it wasn’t just an accident or indulging in risky behaviour without thinking of the consequences,” he said.

“The coroner has to be sure they had the mental capacity to take their own life. That has to be established at a pretty high level, you have to be sure. If there is any reasonably plausible alternative that suggests that they didn’t have that intent then the coroner shouldn’t make that finding

Suicide has been a taboo issue to discuss publicly, which has kept the level of problem hidden. Four people a day committing suicide is very sad and very concerning.

The hidden extent of the problem means that efforts to assist people contemplating suicide should be far greater than present, and importantly more resources need to be made available.

And more information needs to be publicly available, so that family and friends of those who may be considering suicide can more easily recognise the signs so they can try to do something about it.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz

0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.

Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

 – Sunday Star Times

.

Suicide reporting and discussion

New Zealand has laws that severely restrict what can be reported and publicly discussed about suicide, in part at least to try to eliminate copycat suicides and prompting suicides.

But an alarming suicide rate continues:

  • 2007-08: 540
  • 2008-09: 531
  • 2009-10: 541
  • 2010-11: 558
  • 2011-12: 547
  • 2012-13: 541
  • 2013-14: 529
  • 2014-15: 564

On top of that there are many unsuccessful attempts at suicide.

Stuff: New Zealand suicide reporting laws due to change, here’s what you need to know

Some experts say our laws aren’t strict enough and the word “suicide” shouldn’t even be mentioned in the public domain due to fears of contagion, or copycat suicides.

Others say the law shouldn’t gag those who want to tell their stories.

In some cases, parents, siblings and spouses of suicide victims want talk about what happened to them and their loved ones in the hope it will stop others going through the same thing.

New Zealand’s laws are currently undergoing changes but there is no suggestion the criminal law will be scrapped anytime soon.

Currently:

The Coroner’s Act 2006 restricts reporting or publicly discussing individual suicides.

Any person, including the media, cannot make public the details of a self-inflicted death.

As the law stands, it is also illegal to say a death is a suicide or suspected suicide until the coroner has ruled suicide as the cause of death.

If the coroner’s investigation finds the death to have been self-inflicted, only the deceased person’s name, address, occupation, and the fact of the coroner’s finding of suicide, may be published.

The coroner may make exemptions if they consider the reporting of the details is unlikely to be detrimental to public safety and there is sufficient public interest.

But:

Those on both sides of the fence agree the current laws are not fit for purpose.

Some believe the criminal laws should be abolished in favour of reporting guidelines, which could make the media answerable to their relevant disciplinary body – either the Press Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority in New Zealand.

Others, including researcher Annette Beautrais and the Mental Health Foundation stand firm on their belief of the need for legal restrictions.

Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgeler says the laws are outdated and ignored.

People, especially suicide bereaved, should not have to worry about facing criminal prosecution for talking about the suicide of their loved ones, Edgeler says.

I agree with Edgeler. Gagging grieving family and friends seems bizarre.

I think the starting point should be allowing free speech and that should only be restricted if credible research shows that it would be likely to be damaging.

Who the law applies to (pretty much everyone apart from coroners):

The law applies to the public, bereaved family and friends, mainstream media and social media.

The restrictions apply to any public discussion, broadcast or report.

The law doesn’t stop people who want to have private discussions about suspected suicides or suicides in private – whether that be over the phone, over the internet or face-to-face.

But:

No-one in New Zealand has ever been prosecuted or fined for breaching these legal restrictions in the Coroners Act.

Changes are currently being considered in Parliament.

The Coroners Amendment Bill is currently before the house.

A Justice and Electoral Select Committee report on the amendment bill says the media don’t always comply with the current restrictions, and have developed terms of innuendo that hint at suicide – like “no suspicious circumstances” or “the death has been referred to the coroner”.

The proposed changes would mean media and suicide bereaved could publicly refer to a death as a suspected suicide before a coroner rules on the cause.

The bill seeks to narrow reporting restrictions to the details most likely to lead to copycat behaviour, according to the select committee report.

As it stands, the bill would prohibit reporting the method of a suicide, or the site if it suggests the method, unless the chief coroner has granted an exemption.

The select committee also extended the restrictions on reporting suicides to overseas deaths, and historical deaths.

One obvious problem is that by prohibiting public discussion suicide prevention and support are difficult.

Another problem is that assumptions of suicide can be left unchallenged. This happened with someone I know, the coroner found that the death was not suicide but rumours circulated that it was.

Suicide could be inferred (and hinted at in social media) that it was suicide, but because details were kept secret the truth couldn’t be revealed.

WHERE TO GET HELP

  • The Mental Health Foundation’s free resource and information service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:
  • Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
  • Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
  • Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • 0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
  • Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
  • Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
  • Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

 – Stuff

Suicide and the silent treatment

Suicide rates in New Zealand remain alarmingly high. How to address this is fraught with problems. Imposing silence hasn’t worked well.

Powerful and challenging piece on youth suicide in today’s Sunday Star Times. Secrecy does not save lives.

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The mother’s story, redacted, at Stuff: The silent treatment: How one mum has been stopped from talking about suicide

WHERE TO GET HELP

Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or emailtalk@youthline.co.nz

0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.

Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

 – Sunday Star Times