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.