Dave Macpherson – Why isn’t this country talking about suicide?

By   /   March 21, 2017  /   4 Comments

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In the last week, high profile mainstream media personalities have raised the issue of suicide and mental illnesses that can lead to it, mainly on the back of the suicide of a friend of one particular personality, Jono Pryor.

In the last week, high profile mainstream media personalities have raised the issue of suicide and mental illnesses that can lead to it, mainly on the back of the suicide of a friend of one particular personality, Jono Pryor.

Jono made clear his anguish about his mate’s suicide on live TV, stating that he hadn’t realised the struggles his friend was going through until after the death.

We deal with some arcane laws relating to suicides in this country, and even the word ‘suicide’ is illegal if used in the media in relation to a death – until the Coroner deems suicide is the cause of death.

The fact that the whole country knows what happened is ignored by the paternalistic upholders of the law – a law that is behind most other countries, where there are merely guidelines, and families and the media are expected to speak and report on the issues appropriately.

Several of the families who have contacted us in the last two years about suicides of their loved ones have been banned from talking about these deaths by Coroners, and associated legal hangers-on. They actually fear talking publicly anywhere about what happened, despite desperately wanting to discuss it openly, and in some cases are left in this awful limbo for five or more years.

And then there’s a further problem – Jono’s mate Tim Hutchens was suffering from, and being treated for, severe depression, an illness, just like cancer, or the flu. Depression was actually the cause of Tim’s death.

But when the Coroner eventually gets around to ruling on the cause of death, it will probably be listed as suicide, not depression.

Our son Nicky suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, according to the few ‘experts’ who diagnosed him. That is a severe mental illness. When Nicky drowned in the Waikato River, his death was actually caused by his illness – schizophrenia.

When the Coroner, after stuffing around for over two years now, eventually rules on the cause of death, it will be called suicide, not death as a result of schizophrenia.

Yet when a baby dies as a result of child abuse, we dissect the cause and expose the culprits – as we should, like there is no tomorrow.

When a young person dies of cancer, the sorrow is widespread throughout the community, and the calls for better treatment services are loud – and listened to by Governments (especially approaching elections)

It seems that deaths as a result of mental illness have a cone of silence placed over them – if they can be kept hidden, the causes are easier to ignore, and the solutions don’t need to be found.

So when celebrities break out of the suicide cone of silence, it is a good thing; as long as the rest of us stick our foot in the door and refuse to allow it to be closed, we will eventually get this deadly subject out into the open.



Dave Macpherson is The Daily Blog’s mental health blogger after losing his son to mental health incompetence. He is now a member of the Waikato DHB and fights for the rights of those with mental health issues.

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  1. Philj says:

    The reason is our culture does not handle the reality of death very well. Kind of a death in itself. There is a longer answer of course….

  2. southcoast says:

    Yes I agree Dave.

  3. Simon says:

    Thanks Dave, openness and honesty is exactly what we need on the issue of suicide & depression and you sharing your personal experience is right along those lines. Well done, you’re a brave man! The closest person to me who took their own life hose official cause of death was suicide, was a friend from university back in the 90s. The total lack of acknowledgement of the factors causing her death (her depression, her struggles with being gay in a conservative family) still bugs me to this day. Like Jono, I had no idea what she was struggling with and her family were in total denial about it, despite the fact that this was not her first suicide attempt.

    I had no idea that this cone of silence was a legal thing – I had always just presumed it was an archaic journalistic protocol not to use the “s” word. Changing the law regarding this seems like a helpful step in creating more transparency. How would we do this? Which law actually needs to be changed? Has this been attempted before? Are there any actions under way to change the law that we could support through lobbying the relevant minister?

  4. Walter says:

    I think fundamentally the biggest problems we have with suicide is that we only know how to medicate .that’s our only solution we don’t treat it any other way except for medication, medication isn’t very effective. In fact several psychologists say that medication very often makes things worse it increases serotonin and reduces dopamine, in many cases the opposite needs to happen.
    Ssris can have massive impacts on people, suggested reading on this is Dr David Healy, Psychiatry gone astray.

    There is a phenomenal amount of evidence now suggesting that inflammation is the root cause of depression.

    The health service is indoctrinated to medicate, and that’s if you can get to see them