The attitude of Professor Annette Beautrais, of Canterbury University, and a suicide prevention co-ordinator for the South Canterbury DHB, is one of the primary reasons why it has been so hard to change the culture of silence about suicide, where news of it, and issues about it are swept under the carpet.
I cannot understand how, in this day and age, someone like Beautrais has been able to work for a DHB in this important field. At least she appears to have been severely questioned at Canterbury University [She is an adjunct professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, where she formerly directed the Canterbury Suicide Project prior to leaving in 2009 because some of her grant applications for a research project and a suicide coordinator at Canterbury were rejected. – Wikipedia], and presumably only retains her position there because of the antiquated ‘academic tenure’ system.
She also apparently holds several international positions, and appears to have made a living out of ‘suicidology’.
Less than two months ago Beautrais convinced three South Canterbury High Schools to withdraw invitations to suicide awareness promoter Mike King to speak to their students, one of the most stupid, retrograde steps I’ve heard of recently. She is a dangerous throwback to the times when the media were not allowed to mention suicide, and to when it did not appear in this country’s statistics – pre-2006 (not that far back).
New Zealand is making good strides towards a new culture of openness and inquiry about suicide and mental health. Families and individuals affected are speaking up, recounting their experiences and building support networks and organisations.
They have the direct experience of this issue; they are not academics earning a living from discussing it behind closed doors.
The former Chief Coroner, Neil MacLean, is campaigning for suicide and mental health issues to be brought more out into the open. He has heard hundreds of suicide cases; I’d trust his judgement more than I would an academic’s.
The country does not need the Annette Beautrais’ of the world poking their noses into the growing movement to tackle suicide in an open and honest way.
Retire Annette Beautrais, gracefully if possible, but either way, retire!
Elected Waikato DHB Member
(Dave’s son Nicky Stevens was a suicide victim in March 2015)