Dave Macpherson: Strong bullying/suicide links?


Two current Radio NZ stories in quick succession have shown the strong link between some suicides and bullying.

In one, an MSD investigator wrongly told a beneficiary she had been overpaid $22,000 and that she would be prosecuted to recover the money – less than a day later she was a suicide victim, yet the MSD shortly afterwards told the victim’s mother that the claimed debt was incorrect, and it was eventually waived.

The investigator told the Coroner’s Court that his MSD boss had been told that the victim was a suicide risk, but he’d been told to initiate prosecution anyway, and that inspectors were required to recover $30,000 of debt each month. The boss denied all knowledge of the suicide warning. One of them is lying, but history tells us it’s unlikely anyone will be held to account.

This is a classic, and heart-wrenching, case of institutional bullying, driven by a culture of ‘blame the victim’ that has been hammered into WINZ and MSD for the last 25 years, and never challenged by successive Governments. Those that get ahead in that system are the ones that most enthusiastically and successfully meet their ‘targets’ regardless of the hurt caused.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

At the same time, WINZ and MSD have admitted that they underpay beneficiaries by around $200 million each year, but I can’t remember anyone being harassed or prosecuted for that!

Around the same time, a 15-year-old Wellington high school student became another suicide victim after being the target of sustained and vicious bullying online and at school.

She came from a family home troubled with violence, and despite some help from a school counsellor, opportunities by other professionals to combat the suicide risk were missed. In this case, the Coroner recommended trained mental health professionals be available in every school to support students in similar situations.

A good friend of mine has been working professionally in the last few years to combat workplace bullying, and to support bullied workers, including many who are facing severe mental health stresses as a result. He has faced supporting the family of a Council staff member who became a suicide victim after some pretty severe workplace stresses that amounted to bullying in the eyes of my friend. From other cases he mentions to me, I suspect that a number of other people he is supporting could have also ended up in the same place, were it not for his work.

This article doesn’t have the solutions to bullying readily at hand, but hopes to raise the issue in readers’ minds, at a time when public recognition about the terrible effects of suicide is becoming more widespread, but the clinical and societal causes of suicide not so well understood.

Suicide blighted 606 families, friends and communities last year, and I fear that number will continue to rise without better understanding the causes.


David Macpherson is TDB’s mental health blogger. He became involved in mental health rights after the mental health system allowed his son to die. He is now a Waikato DHB Member.


  1. The saddest reality of your posts David, is that not enough people are prepared to comment on mental health issues as the number of comments shown here gives evidence too. This is exemplified by Mike King being shut down as the voice for mental health and suicide. As someone who works in mental health, the very first step in support, is talking.

  2. Over a year ago, two suicide deaths on the edge of my social circle …. came closer to pushing me into depression or breakdown than at any other point in my life.

    The Grief of those I was close too …. and the indifference of many wealthy but un-civil New Zealanders …. had my emotions going from despair to fury.

    Despite myself & my immediate family doing relatively well in life and circumstances …. I felt a powerlessness against harms, hardships and stress being put upon our working class citizens … and those at the lower end of society.

    Deliberate policy choices …. knowing full well the results literally kill people…..

    …Even when not as obvious as trade deals for ( illegal ) war participation.

    At the time, over on ‘The Standard’, I copped a ban for abusing right ing troll Puckish Rouge, who for me, personified this sickness of indifference … a consent for cruelty ….. saying we are going in the right direction …. even when our numbers increasingly represent a death march … no mercy for straggles or those left behind.

    Other trolls like James or srylands sometimes makes me wild ….. for the same reasons …

    The two suicide victims impacting upon me did not know of each other ….

    One was a father, a rugged and incredibly hard working forestry man …, fluently Bi-Lingual, knowledgeable in history ,..and a talented musical Artist. ….

    He was made unemployed, like just about every other man in his small town …. When the forestry industry stopped tree felling … during the start of Nationals housing crisis/bubble/shortage…. and when growing numbers of NZ kids… were living in cars .

    Unemployment , Bennett/Keys sick WINZ culture…. and other attacks against human decency …. throughout his life but particularly at the end ….. broke his spirit….

    His death makes us all sicker.

    The grief sadness ….and anger of those who knew and loved him … metastasizes through and harms all our society .

    The other victim was a teenage girl who suffered from our un-civil treatment of her parents, which of course affected her circumstances and home life ……This coupled with a complete Failure by her school, first with bullying, …. and then in delaying Medical treatment …. turned what was a ‘cry for help’ suicide attempt … into a fatal one. …a needless death of a young, talented, intelligent but sad New Zealander

    I strongly suspect a white girl would have been taken more seriously….. and had immediate medical action …. rather than sent to and mucked around at her school sick bay …..as she was.

    Both of the suicide victims did not have easy lives … both had so much talent …. both were loved

    ….. The loss of their sensitivity and humanity …. and the legions of others like them in New Zealand ….. cuts at the very spirit of our society….. they bear the crushed hope of our descent.

    Take the Civil out of society ….. and what are you left with ?.

    I’ll finish this posts with the words and Lyrics of the forrestry worker, father … and musical artist.

    A small sliver and sample of what was his life ….. in his words … which had me in tears at times.

    N8v child: ( native child )

    “Theres no gas in the subey ……. CV’s are about to snap… Motor smokes like doobies
    No warrent or registration …. awww fucken sue me
    Im up to my neck . in debt .. with finacial shit …..
    And the rest of me out-stretched ….. with I.O.U on my chest “

    On drink …..
    “Theres a way to make a shitty day a happy day,
    N8v child get drunk ,, drink sorrows away.
    Nothing can stop you when your in the zone and on your way,
    Wake up…….. everythings on the next day .

    Theres a way to make a shitty day a happy day,
    Square gin, johnny walker, Jds …its all the same.
    Nothing can stop you when your in the zone and on your way,
    Wake up…….. everythings on the next day.”

    On suicide …
    “Dedicated this one to my People beneath the stone ……..our souls are going home

    Angles surround me, presence of the other side. …
    So many whys, this destiny that dont arrive.
    I love to deliver you messages of rhymes,
    cause your whats deep inside my mind, …inspiring the lines ….hush”


    “Big, bad. ,no gas no cash , …. and no flash stuff.”

    “I aint no gangster … just running around for myself,
    While defending the health, ….of all the guys in the camp.
    My wahine and kids …..we are our own cartell…

    Like a ghost presence appearing ….you never see me.
    I’m a native Cannibal from Aotearoa …. I aint no Kiwi”

    “Dirty crap Like your shitty cows ..walking through race’s
    Shit splatter … fecal matter, ..
    on your lips is verbal diarrhea.
    Fecal manure when you spit, …
    watch me crush you like this ..
    logging truck incidint “

    “Dial tone , I’m a little engage engaged …hard case … maori or polynesian
    That just a little reminder …. of theres somebody in the background .. preparing for tomorrow”

    “No matter how hard you try …your left behind .. in your mind”

    “Ashes to dust …Government corruption is such,
    The seas black, .. and they’re still trying to drill and frack the fuck.
    Mother earths had enough ……
    And I’m looking around ,….. and Im looking around alot ,…. you got me looking around …
    trying to find a way out… I’m trying to find my way out.”

    R.I.P … N8v Child

Comments are closed.