World cup and quakes cause drop in suicide rate

Suicides almost ceased during the Rugby World Cup, in a phenomenon linked to that seen in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, the London bombings and the September 11 attacks.

Community Action on Suicide Education Prevention and Research (Casper) founder Maria Bradshaw said in the aftermath of the London bombings, the September 11 attacks and the Christchurch earthquake there was a reduction in suicides.

She said suicides often occurred when people felt marginalised, so it made sense there was a drop when there was "social cohesion".

"Suicide occurs because people have a lack of sense of belonging, and a sense that they don't make a valued contribution. So, when you have things like the earthquake and the cup, people who are feeling like that suddenly have something in common with everyone else," Bradshaw said.

"If you are feeling marginalised, then during something like the rugby you are on the same page as everyone else, backing the same team, hoping for the same thing.

"That's also true in Christchurch. If there was a person who was really lonely in a street and everybody had baked beans, maybe they were the person with the can opener.

"Suddenly they are important, and there is that sense of `we are all in this together'."

Bradshaw, whose son committed suicide three years ago, said: "We know from research from community projects around the world that cohesion can have a really significant effect in dropping suicide rates."

She said similar results could be achieved by all communities in New Zealand "without waiting for a natural disaster".

"The thing that was really cool about the cup was that it wasn't a disaster, people united in support of something."

Victim Support in South Auckland member Murray McLean said giving was beneficial for mental health.

"I often look for opportunities for my clients to serve in the community as a way of removing focus from themselves and getting a sense of worth.

"The bottom line is that strong families equals a strong community, which equals a strong nation, and until we go back to family and community cohesion, we will continue to see high levels of depression and suicide."

Bradshaw said that when Casper went into communities it helped people identify individuals and groups who had the lowest sense of belonging, and organise strategies where people could be brought into groups or be given opportunities to participate.

If you, or someone you know, is at risk of suicide, in case of emergency call 111. Otherwise you can visit depression.org.nz. Families who have lost a loved one to suicide can visit casper.org.nz.

Sunday Star Times