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Time NZ Got Serious About Suicide Prevention

Time NZ Got Serious About Suicide Prevention

21 August 2014

Suicide prevention charity CASPER believes the key message from the release of today’s suicide statistics is that its time New Zealand woke up and got serious about preventing suicide.

CASPER CEO Maria Bradshaw points to a significant body of international literature that proves a mental health approach to suicide actually increases suicide rates.

“This research shows that by implementing more mental health treatment and increasing the numbers of psychiatrists actually drives suicide rates up and that this holds true across not only New Zealand but other countries also. I feel like we are hitting our heads against a brick wall but how many more years will successive governments in New Zealand continue to sacrifice its citizens on the altar of a failed mental health approach to suicide. The easy option is to throw money at the system than to address the real drivers of suicide.”

Bradshaw says allocating millions of dollars to mental health services drives up suicide rates on two fronts; those who access services and receive nothing but a stigmatizing and unhelpful diagnostic label.

“This is incredibly harmful to people already feeling marginalized. They are often put on antidepressants that double their risk of suicide. Secondly are those who seek the support of community based, social services who receive little help because ironically all of the available funding is channeled into mental health. It’s time to start looking at this national epidemic differently.”

Bradshaw believes that the sympathy directed to the families of those who die from suicide, including the family of Robin Williams, is mere posturing by government.

“We have a Prime Minister who has refused to hold a commission of enquiry into what is causing New Zealand’s high rate of suicide and the Government continues to tick the box on suicide prevention by throwing money to a negligent and harmful mental health system. We have a Chief Coroner, who each year expresses disappointment that the statistics remain ‘stubbornly high’ but proposes no solutions on the grounds he is not an expert on suicide prevention. We have MPs who ignore requests to provide information on what they would do to prevent suicide if elected. This is hardly the response of a government and coronial system that shows any urgency or real commitment to suicide prevention.”

Bradshaw says at grassroots they are a number of suicide prevention charities in New Zealand run by families who have lost loved ones.

“They work tirelessly to support families struggling to keep suicidal family members alive. They support traumatized and grief stricken families whose begging for a proper investigation into their loved ones death via an inquest falls on deaf coronial ears. These groups receive no funding, are actively undermined by the Ministry of Health and treated with the same disrespect by government agencies that bereaved families face.”

Bradshaw is a strong advocate that preventing suicide starts with creating environments in which people feel connected and are contributing.

“It is about giving people faith that they can improve their circumstances and that life will get better. Unless our government and courts understand this and do something about it, we will have another 529 people kill themselves in the next year and another round of platitudes from those who have the power to make a difference but don’t care enough to make a start.”

CASPER was founded in 2010 by two mothers, including Maria Bradshaw, following the death of their children to suicide. CASPER which stands for community action on suicide prevention and education, aims to provide support, education and a voice for families affected by suicide, lobbying for legislative and policy changes where required.


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