The release this week of statistics showing the highest rate of suicide since records began should come as no surprise to the NZ government. CASPER has repeatedly warned politicians that this country’s approach to suicide prevention increases rather decreases suicide risk. Despite the evidence the suicide prevention charity has provided, government has done nothing but continue year on year to provide more of the harmful interventions that rather than preventing suicide, induce people to take their lives.
“Creating a social environment where more and more people are marginalised, then responding to their distress by giving them drugs clinically proven to at least double their risk of suicide can only result in higher suicide numbers” said Maria Bradshaw, CEO of CASPER.
Ms Bradshaw’s son took his life in 2008 and assessments by Otago University on behalf of the Ministry of Health and international pharmaceutical company, Mylan Pharmaceuticals both concluded that the antidepressant he was prescribed 15 days before his death, was the probable cause of his suicide.
CASPER has provided a large body of credible evidence showing that when people feel sad or scared or worried, when they are lonely and isolated or suffer discrimination, labelling them as mentally disordered and giving them antidepressants increases their risk of suicide hugely. The government has chosen to ignore this evidence and pour more and more public funding into mental health services rather than addressing the causes of people’s distress and implementing social rather than medical suicide prevention measures.
“Doing more of the same and expecting a different result is supposed to be the definition of madness” says the CASPER CEO, “but this is exactly what our government are doing. We have children as young as six taking their lives, we have the highest rate of suicide on record and astronomical rates by international comparisons. What will it take for the Government to admit that the current approach doesn’t work and to take a different approach?”
Bradshaw says post Christchurch earthquake demonstrated graphically that the social cohesion created when people commiserate or celebrate together prevents suicide.
“At the time of the earthquake suicide rates fell to zero as people came together to support each other and everyone felt valued and supported within their community. After the earthquake however suicide rates rocketed as mental health professionals with their labels and prescription pads swarmed over the city.”
When CASPER funded six bereaved parents to attend a meeting with John Key to plead for a change in policy and a commission of enquiry into suicide in New Zealand, they were met with indifference and a refusal to conduct an enquiry. According to Ms Bradshaw, the response from other political parties has been similar.