Suicides coverage raises fears

Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014
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A former Taranaki coroner says he has "severe reservations" on the move to allow greater media reporting of suicides.

Roger Mori, of New Plymouth, was North Taranaki's coroner for 23 years. He stepped down seven years ago when the coronial services were restructured.

Taranaki's coronial services are now managed from Palmerston North.

Mori was responding to provisional suicide statistics of the past seven years in New Zealand which were released yesterday.

Nationally, 3787 people have killed themselves since 2007. During the same period there were 115 suicides in Taranaki.

Mori said yesterday that he was concerned at the recent push for general publicity around suicides including the reporting of some inquests.

It had been his policy to suppress all details surrounding self-inflicted deaths because of research which, coroners were told, found a tendency for suicides to increase when they were kept in the public domain - such as had occurred with Robin Williams' recent death.

"That was the theory at the time. Now they are saying we should be talking about it. I have severe reservations about this," he said.

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Taranaki Suicide Prevention Group chairman Fi Szpetnar-Perez is passionate about wiping out suicides after her husband's death in Wellington.

"We've got to stop it," she said.

In analysing Taranaki trends during the past seven years, she noted there had been a dramatic drop in youth suicides.

"Unfortunately we still have elder suicides which show a disturbing increase."

Since 2010-11 most of the deaths were 30-50-year-old men who were mostly Europeans. This went against the national trend, she said. And this could be explained by the high numbers of farmers who made up the bulk of those numbers, Szpetnar-Perez said.

On the positive side, a lot of work was going into approaching this at-risk group in Taranaki.

The Law Commission has recommended that the sections of the Coroners Act 2006 that restrict the reporting of suicide are repealed and a new set of standards developed.

Minister for Courts and MP for Whanganui Chester Borrows, who asked the commission to review the Coroner's Act, told the paper yesterday the recommendations had now been i introduced to Parliament.



Lifeline – 0800 543 354 Depression Helpline (8am to midnight) – 0800 111 757

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Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 KIDSLINE)

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else; noon to midnight) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

Samaritans – 0800 726 666 – visit the website, email or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between noon and midnight). 

- Taranaki Daily News


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