Mental Health Foundation concerned about false suicide claims

2 Jun, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

The Mental Health Foundation is extremely concerned about inaccurate claims that New Zealand’s suicide rate could be more than three times the official suicide rate. This claim is categorically false and causes unnecessary alarm and distress to New Zealanders.

Deaths that are suspected to be suicides are referred to the coroner, and all of these cases are recorded in the Chief Coroner’s annual provisional suicide statistics. The Ministry of Health releases the final suicide numbers, which is generally lower than the provisional data by an average of about 30 deaths a year.

This difference can be largely attributed to cases that were initially suspected to be suicide, but are found not to be because there is not strong evidence of the person’s intention to take their own life, that is, the coroner cannot prove that a death was not an accident. In these cases, the deaths are found to be self-inflicted, not suicide.

Only around 30 deaths are categorised as “self-inflicted” each year. The “true” suicide rate is absolutely not 1,500 per year.

“It is grossly irresponsible and patently wrong to claim that there are 33 deaths by suicide in New Zealand per week, or that our annual suicide rate is over 1,500 per year,” says Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson.

“Spreading misinformation creates a false impression of a worsening suicide crisis, creating fear in communities and causing people to feel helpless and hopeless.

“It is vitally important that we help individuals, whanau and communities to feel that they are capable of preventing suicides by helping them to understand risks, warning signs, myths and where to go to get help. Media can help in this work by making useful prevention information available. Media are extremely unhelpful when they choose to spread alarmist misinformation.”

The Mental Health Foundation works with media to safely report on suicide and suicide-related issues, and can be contacted for advice, to answer questions or concerns and to provide accurate statistics and research.

For further information or comment, contact:

Sophia Graham
PR & Communications Specialist
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
Ph: 021 740 454
sophia.graham@mentalhealth.org.nz