Christchurch quake blamed for suicide — (New Zealand Herald News)

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New Zealand Herald News

Christchurch’s earthquakes have claimed their first suicide.

Coroner Sue Johnson’s finding on the death of Phillip Cooke, 54, in January last year is believed to be the first suicide formally attributed to the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes, a Justice Ministry spokesman said.

Ms Johnson found the railway worker was being treated for depression brought on by the earthquakes when he took his own life.

“His home in Avonside was without power and water for weeks after the September 4, 2010 earthquake and after the February 22, 2011 earthquake it was so severely damaged it became uninhabitable,” she said in her ruling released yesterday.

Mr Cooke had been particularly affected by the February quake which forced him and and his elderly mother into a much smaller house on the other side of town. “Prior to the earthquakes, Mr Cooke was a happy, balanced, even-keeled and stable person actively involved in the community, never becoming flustered in a crisis and always calm and collected,” Ms Johnson said.

Friends of Ferrymead Society president Martin James said he had known Mr Cooke for more than 25 years and had supported him.

“To lose someone who was so interested in people, so organised and motivated is an absolute tragedy,” he said. “Phillip was one of the most balanced, unflustered people. He had a really good sense of humour and was a person who organised others.”

Mr James said he didn’t see any suicidal signs in his friend.

“By no means was he 100 per cent, but I thought he was well on the road to recovery.”

 

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Mum’s grief at loss of her son after quakes

Stuff.co.nz

BLAIR ENSOR AND OLIVIA CARVILLE

Last updated 05:00 05/06/2013

RUINED: The now-abandoned Cooke home in Avonside that was severely damaged in the earthquakes.

DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

BEREFT: Shirley Cooke talks about her son, Phillip, 54, whose suicide has been attributed by the coroner to stress caused by the Canterbury earthquakes.
GONE: Christchurch man Phillip Cooke killed himself in January 2012. His death is the first confirmed suicide related to the earthquakes.

The first confirmed earthquake-related suicide may be a sign of a dark road ahead for Christchurch.

International post-disaster research shows antisocial behaviour and suicide attempts peak in the third year of recovery.

Coroner Sue Johnson yesterday released her findings into Phillip Charles Cooke’s death on January 17 last year, finding the 54-year-old died as a result of suicide, related to the quakes.

New Zealand chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean said he would be watching Canterbury “very closely” this year as he was aware of the “three-year-on” phenomenon.

The annual suicide statistics are usually released in August and MacLean could not provide any up-to-date figures but he said “for every one completed suicide there are a large number of attempts or self-harms”.

Directly after the quakes the city’s suicide rate dropped but Greater Christchurch, including the West Coast and Marlborough, had the biggest national jump in suicides last year, increasing from 89 in 2010/11 to 117 in 2011/12, preliminary statistics released by the chief coroner show.

St John has received 209 self-harm or suicide-related calls in Christchurch so far this year, equating to more than one a day.

The city holds the highest anti-depressant prescription rate in the country, with more than 66,000 Cantabrians using such medication.

Mental health referrals are at an all-time high and the region’s psychiatric emergency team has also fielded a noticeable increase.

And fears are rising that the quake-hit city could follow in the footsteps of Australia’s Victorian community, which saw a spike in suicides three years after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Christchurch’s total number of self-harm or suicide-related calls to St John increased by 10 per cent from 2011 to 2012, which is similar to an alarming national increase, a St John spokesman said.

Dr Rob Gordon, consultant psychologist for the Australian and New Zealand Red Cross, said the third year after a major disaster was usually the toughest on communities.

Gordon, who has 30 years’ experience in disaster and emergency psychology, witnessed an increase in domestic violence, assaults, alcohol and drug abuse, marital breakdowns and suicides following the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
grim aftermath of Black Saturday.

Gordon advised Cantabrians to focus on the meaningful things in life rather than “constantly banging their heads against the wall over EQC and insurance companies”.

He urged quake-weary Cantabrians to reach out for help by contacting a helpline of their GP.

Two or three years after a disaster, “the drudgery of life being hard for a very long time” often hits a peak, he said.

Disaster mental health associate Professor Sarb Johal said secondary stresses, such as housing, insurance and financial woes, were often a bigger strain on communities than the disaster itself as the feeling that “we are all going through this together starts to disappear”, which can lead to a sense of being marginalised or alienated for many people.

 

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Mum’s grief at loss of her son after quakes

Stuff.co.nz

05/06/2013

BLAIR ENSOR AND OLIVIA CARVILLE

The first confirmed earthquake-related suicide may be a sign of a dark road ahead for Christchurch.

International post-disaster research shows antisocial behaviour and suicide attempts peak in the third year of recovery.

Coroner Sue Johnson yesterday released her findings into Phillip Charles Cooke’s death on January 17 last year, finding the 54-year-old died as a result of suicide, related to the quakes.

New Zealand chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean said he would be watching Canterbury “very closely” this year as he was aware of the “three-year-on” phenomenon.

The annual suicide statistics are usually released in August and MacLean could not provide any up-to-date figures but he said “for every one completed suicide there are a large number of attempts or self-harms”.

Directly after the quakes the city’s suicide rate dropped but Greater Christchurch, including the West Coast and Marlborough, had the biggest national jump in suicides last year, increasing from 89 in 2010/11 to 117 in 2011/12, preliminary statistics released by the chief coroner show.

St John has received 209 self-harm or suicide-related calls in Christchurch so far this year, equating to more than one a day.

The city holds the highest anti-depressant prescription rate in the country, with more than 66,000 Cantabrians using such medication.

Mental health referrals are at an all-time high and the region’s psychiatric emergency team has also fielded a noticeable increase.

And fears are rising that the quake-hit city could follow in the footsteps of Australia’s Victorian community, which saw a spike in suicides three years after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Christchurch’s total number of self-harm or suicide-related calls to St John increased by 10 per cent from 2011 to 2012, which is similar to an alarming national increase, a St John spokesman said.

Dr Rob Gordon, consultant psychologist for the Australian and New Zealand Red Cross, said the third year after a major disaster was usually the toughest on communities.

Gordon, who has 30 years’ experience in disaster and emergency psychology, witnessed an increase in domestic violence, assaults, alcohol and drug abuse, marital breakdowns and suicides following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, the grim aftermath of Black Saturday.

Gordon advised Cantabrians to focus on the meaningful things in life rather than “constantly banging their heads against the wall over EQC and insurance companies”.

He urged quake-weary Cantabrians to reach out for help by contacting a helpline of their GP.

Two or three years after a disaster, “the drudgery of life being hard for a very long time” often hits a peak, he said.

Disaster mental health associate Professor Sarb Johal said secondary stresses, such as housing, insurance and financial woes, were often a bigger strain on communities than the disaster itself as the feeling that “we are all going through this together starts to disappear”, which can lead to a sense of being marginalised or alienated for many people.

MUM’S GRIEF FOR SON

Shirley Cooke has no doubt the Canterbury earthquakes drove her son to commit suicide and regrets leaving him home alone the day he died.

The 84-year-old Avonhead resident knew he was taking medication for depression, but never thought he would harm himself or anyone else.

Yesterday, Coroner Sue Johnson released her findings into Phillip Charles Cooke’s death on January 17 last year.

She detailed a trail of earthquake-related events, which made the 54-year-old rail worker depressed and ultimately led to him taking his own life.

“Prior to the earthquakes Mr Cooke was a happy, balanced, even keeled and stable person actively involved in the community, never becoming flustered in a crisis and always calm and collected,” Johnson said.

However, after the earthquake on September 4, 2010 his condition began to deteriorate and he began being treated for depression.

The home in Avonside where he lived with Shirley was severely damaged and without power and water for several weeks. It was damaged beyond repair in the February 22 earthquake the following year.

The pair were forced to move to a smaller house on the other side of town.

“I find on all the evidence before me that the reason for Mr Cooke’s depression and his ultimate suicide was the effect on him of the earthquakes in Christchurch,” Johnson concluded.

Shirley Cooke told The Press Phillip had lived with her all his life and was a “very caring son”.

“I think of him every day.”

Before the earthquakes he was “happy-go-lucky, very clever with his hands, very funny and into everything”, Shirley said.  “He had no money worries, he didn’t smoke, he’d have a drink with the boys and he had a nice lady friend.”

Martin James said his close friend found it difficult to cope.

“He couldn’t see his way out of the problems that the earthquakes had delivered. It was just all too overwhelming for him.”

He warned people to keep a close eye on their friends and family three years on from the earthquakes.

“If you know someone … and you see they are really stuck, alarm bells should start ringing.”