Concerns raised over group's scientology link

Last updated 05:00 26/08/2010

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A new lobby group for families affected by suicide has sparked concerns over links with the Church of Scientology.

Casper (Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education & Research) was formed by two mothers who lost their children to suicide.

However, Green MP Kevin Hague said the Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) was closely associated with Casper, and was established as an arm of the Church of Scientology.

Maria Bradshaw, mother of suicide victim Toran Henry, 17, said the new group would provide a voice for families affected by suicide, and lobby for legislative and policy changes.Families should have the same rights and support as victims of crime during coroner's inquests, she said.

"We have the information and support we need to keep our children safe from poisoning, drowning and drink-driving. We deserve to have the same information about an issue that causes 10 deaths a week in New Zealand."

Bradshaw said the new group hoped to meet with Prime Minister John Key to present its ideas.

"The Government needs to accept that what it is doing is not working, and to implement radical change in its approach to suicide prevention and the support of the families it affects," she said.

Bradshaw said suicide should be treated as a social issue as treating it as a medical issue actually increased suicide rates.

However, Hague said the Church of Scientology had a radical agenda against psychiatry and mental health services.

The CCHR website said it was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and professor of psychiatry emeritus Dr Thomas Szasz.

Bradshaw said the CCHR had helped her and other families affected by suicide.

She was aware some members were scientologists, but she did not care about their religious views. "We don't feel that we have been captured, we are not scientologists, we just want people to have access to groups that provide counselling services."

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