Matthew Backhouse in the Herald reported:
Families of suicide victims have urged Prime Minister John Key to consider a review of the “abusive” coronial inquest system.
The meeting comes after a spate of youth suicides have rocked communities in Masterton and the small Bay of Plenty logging town of Kawerau in recent months.
Suicide prevention group Casper, and victims’ families and supporters from Kawerau, yesterday presented Mr Key with its latest strategy on tackling suicide. It calls for shifting suicide prevention efforts from mental health clinics to families and communities.
Casper spokeswoman Maria Bradshaw said the group asked Mr Key to conduct a review of the coroner’s court, which is tasked with identifying lessons to be learned from individual suicides and making recommendations to prevent further deaths. …
The group called on Mr Key to consider a Royal Commission of Inquiry into suicide, which he said he would consider.
Mr Key has already indicated his commitment to tackling the issue, having instructed his department to launch a review of the youth suicide rate, which is the highest per-capita in the developed world for girls and the third highest for boys.
I recall the first time a teenage friend of mine killed themselves. I still think of her quite often, and think about what could have been done to prevent her suicide.
But there is no one view on how best to change things, even amongst families of those who killed themselves. A different view to that of Ms Bradshaw and Casper can be found at the Vendetta on Suicide blog, specifically this post:
According to Radio New Zealand, co-founder of community suicide prevention group CASPER and bereaved mother Maria Bradshaw is to meet with Prime Minister John Key this week to discuss “a complete re-think on how to prevent suicides.”
This, frankly, scares the living bejesus out of me.
It will not be a popular view with many. Bradshaw is a grieving mother who clearly loved her son with an intensity I doubt I will be capable of comprehending until I have my own children. Grief is clearly etched on her face whenever she appears on the news. Her drive and passion to enact change are at once awe-inspiring and intimidating.
But what if the changes Maria Bradshaw and CASPER desire will cause harm to the very people they claim to represent? What they are proposing flies in the face of all current evidence. They make a number of concerning claims: according to the CASPER website’s ‘About’ page, the group believe “Suicide is a social, not medical, issue” and are lobbying for “An end to the psychotropic drugging of New Zealanders”.
There is, in my mind, a lot wrong with a group who are neither doctors, researchers, psychiatrists or psychologists encouraging the Prime Minister to ban anti-depressants, which is what I interpret their stated aims to mean. Arguments about SSRI effectiveness aside, being a suicide survivor does not automatically make you a leading authority on mental health medicine any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
What really concerns me, though, is CASPER’s repeatedly-stated aim of seeing media restrictions on suicide reporting lifted. The reasoning behind this desire, according to a Radio New Zealand Insight interview with Maria Bradshaw, is so that suicide survivors can ‘tell their stories’ of their loved ones to the country. With both the chief coroner and Associate Minister for Health Peter Dunne making positive noises around, as he puts it, “opening the door” for the media, CASPER may just get their wish.
Sounds reasonable? Well, maybe, except for two not-so-slight problems. Firstly, the huge and inconvenient body of evidence that reporting on suicide in a sensational manner, or printing stories that speculate on reasons for suicides and/or describe the method used are likely to result in an increase in actual suicides. Which has to count as an own goal no matter who’s reffing.
I’ve been involved as a blogger in updating the media guidelines on suicide reporting. The guidelines are very sensible and in fact useful. Related to the guidelines is the restriction on reporting the particulars of a suicide. There is a difference of view on whether that means one can report a suicide as a suicide until the Coroner gives permission. I tend to think in the age of social media, with Facebook tribute pages and the like, an attempt to restrict reporting that a death was a suicide is unlikely to be successful. However that does not mean that any reporting should depart from the best practice guidelines on reporting where you don’t glamorise it, talk about people “successfully” killing themselves, making suicide seem like a logical solution to problems they were facing etc.