Support to break suicide silence 'tremendous'

A Timaru general practitioner who is calling for New Zealand to break its silence surrounding suicide said he has received support for his message both locally and overseas.

Dr Ollie Bourke told the Herald last week that he strongly supported chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean in his recent comments that suicide should be discussed more openly so the public has more information about it.

"Sure, in talking about it there is a risk of copycats, but it is a risk worth taking," Dr Bourke said. "It's happening now."

Since the article's publication last Saturday, Dr Bourke said he had received "a tremendous response."

"Virtually everyone I've seen has commented, and 99 per cent has been positive."

Some of the support came from his native Ireland, after the article was posted on Facebook and reached an international audience. He hopes it would spark a similar conversation there.

"Unfortunately... [Ireland] has a comparable suicide problem," he said.

"I think they're probably going to take it up there, as far as I know."

He estimated that, in the 3500-patient practice he shares with his wife, Dr Louise Perdue-Bourke, they see two to three people every day who are suffering from depression and an average of one person each week who has attempted suicide.

"People are hurting from this," he said.

"They need compassion, kindness, and as open a discussion as they can – as frank a discussion as they can."

The Herald has received dozens of responses from readers since the publication of its first interview with Dr Bourke, including many from people who have offered to speak out about suicide's impact on their lives.

The first of these stories will be published tomorrow.


In an emergency, don't wait, phone TACT (psychiatric crisis team) on 0800 277 997 or police on 111.

If anyone has major concerns about someone they know with a range of risk factors – markedly withdrawn, angry, anxious, low, using excess drugs and alcohol, behaviours out of character – then seek advice from:

Kensington Centre, Timaru Hospital (036872150), Adventure Development Counselling (036845830), Youth Alley (036886997), He Oranga Pai (036157452) or Police (036879808).

Helpful websites:



The Lowdown


The Timaru Herald