There Is No Evidence New Zealand’s Suicide Rates Have Increased Over Lockdown.
The Mental Health Foundation is deeply disappointed to see a rumour circulating that there has been a dramatic increase in suicides in New Zealand over the lockdown period.
“There is absolutely no truth to this rumour,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “It is totally irresponsible and untrue.”
The Foundation is concerned at the level of credibility given to such claims, which it has seen popping up with increasing frequency, and urges both the public and journalists to carefully consider their sources of information.
“There are very few people in the country who are able to accurately assess numbers of suicides at a national level in real-time,” Mr Robinson says. “It is critically important not to contribute to misunderstandings and false information about suicide in New Zealand.
“While mental health workers, police and other people are an integral part of New Zealand’s suicide prevention efforts, individuals will not be able to give an accurate picture of national suicides.”
The Foundation is particularly worried about the impact these rumours will have on people who are currently vulnerable to suicide.
“Whenever we have a public discussion about suicide, people who are currently suicidal or who are vulnerable to suicide are always listening,” Mr Robinson says. “It’s often not possible to tell who these people are, particularly online. But they’re there, and, often, they are looking for reasons to justify or rationalise how they’re feeling – they’re very vulnerable to the suggestion that if others are taking this path then they could take it too. We should not be adding to this serious risk.
“These rumours and their accompanying commentary imply that suicide is an expected, understandable and proportionate response to COVID-19, and that’s both untrue and an extremely unhelpful thing to suggest.”
The Foundation strongly encourages anyone who sees this rumour to refrain from sharing or publishing it, even if it is to correct it. Sharing misinformation, even with the best of intentions, causes further harm.
“This is a tough time for New Zealanders, but we’re seeing a lot of goodwill toward working together and supporting each other to get through,” Mr Robinson says. “We know it’s been hard, but we’re heartened to see how many people have found the positives in lockdown and are actively working to do things that support their own mental health and care for others. We feel incredibly proud of New Zealanders.”
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