Dunne Refuses to Provide Evidence
Dunne Refuses to Provide Evidence to Support New Guidelines on Suicide Reporting
The release today of an analysis of submissions on the guidelines for media reporting of suicide shows a number of submitters questioned the fact no evidence is provided or research cited to support the new rules. In response to these submissions, the Ministry of Health advised Peter Dunne, minister responsible for suicide prevention, that an appendix should be added to the guidelines citing the research on which they are based.
Mr Dunne ignored both the submitters and the Ministry and refused to provide a list of research reports supporting the guidelines.
Suicide Prevention organisation CASPER, a group representing thousands of families bereaved by suicide, says it is not surprised that Mr Dunne has taken this decision. Spokesperson for CASPER, Maria Bradshaw says “The guidelines are not based on current evidence and Mr Dunne has never shown any indication that he is concerned to ensure that evidence rather than ideology underpins attempts to reduce the 11 suicide deaths each week in New Zealand.” CASPER is concerned that the guidelines, which have sections telling journalists what to do and what to think contain factual errors and perpetuate myths about suicide which are not supported by research. The group believes the Minister has a responsibility to either provide evidence to support these statements or to remove them from the guidelines.
Chief Coroner has suggested a link between New Zealand’s restrictions on media reporting of suicide and its having the highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD. The guidelines released today support restrictions on media reporting and ignore the trend towards more open reporting in Australia and other countries where youth suicide rates are half those of New Zealand.
Mr Dunne refused to allow families bereaved by suicide membership of the stakeholder group developing the guidelines for reporting suicide in the media, despite the obvious fact that the families of suicide victims have a huge stake in how their loved ones deaths are reported and in suicide prevention. He said that families could have their say during consultation on the draft guidelines but has ignored the key concern expressed by these families, that the guidelines developed are not evidence-based. Clearly the Ministry, in providing the advice it did, considered the views of families on this issue were valid and should be addressed but they too were ignored by the Minister.
CASPER considers that Mr Dunne’s rejection of an evidence based, scientific approach to suicide prevention and his refusal to engage with the families of suicide victims makes him unsuitable to continue to take ministerial responsibility for suicide prevention. The group recently asked the Maori Party to request that one of its members take over this responsibility.
Under the leadership of Mr Dunne, suicide rates have increased with the Chief Coroners figures showing a 60% increase in suicides of children aged 10-14 since 2008. In that time, the numbers of deaths from suicide equal 75 Pike River disasters or 12.5 Air New Zealand plane crashes in which all passengers were killed. CASPER believes that if any other cause of death killed over 550 people each year, emergency measures would be taken.
Both the Chief Coroner and the PMs Chief Science Adviser have expressed the view held by CASPER that the government’s current approach to suicide prevention is ineffective and that change is required.
For the Minister responsible for reducing suicide to refuse to provide scientific evidence to support his approach is both arrogant and ignorant and given that the result of poor policy and practice in this area is death, amounts to gross negligence.