Factors Causing Suicide in NZ – A Coroner Speaks — (Life.org)

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September, 2011

Three different people/agencies have identified some of the factors that relate to suicide specifically in NZ.  They were Victim Support, Project Hope and a retired Coroner.  The drug “P” is associated with many suicides.

  • Suicide completers are often in unhappy and violent families.
  • An unhappy or tragic event may be the beginning of ongoing depression and lead to suicidal behaviour.
  • Sometimes a suicide seems to result from a sudden response to an event like an argument or disappointment that seems trivial.
  • A loss of a sense of personal worth and meaning to life, is a critical factor in suicide attempts.
  • Some suicide notes reveal the influence of dark music.
  • Drugs are associated with suicides in New Zealand.

Overwhelming business problems or the rejection of broken relationships are reasons behind some suicides.
Project Hope has some sobering thoughts and frightening NZ trends. They describe the preventable human life conditions that are taking such a toll on humanity and young people.

Project Hope notes: “An unhappy or traumatic event or series of events happening to a young person is, in a majority of cases, the cause of depression and suicide which usually doesn’t show itself until many years later.” More here..>

A Coroner Speaks

In every suicide there is a formal, legal process of gathering information for the inquest. The coroner is in charge and is invariably knowledgeable about suicide.

Mate Frankovich is a retired Auckland District Coroner with 16 years experience and a reputation for speaking his mind on the factors he sees contributing to suicide.

Here he shares his thoughts, which are set out under sub headings.

The loss of religious belief
“Fear of God, the Last Judgement and spending eternity in Hell, were major deterrents to suicide. That religious belief has largely gone, to be replaced in a secular society by nihilistic attitudes – there is nothing out there and nothing matters.”

“This loss of a sense of personal worth and meaning to life, is a critical factor. I tend to agree with Rick Stevenson of Project Hope that kids need to be given a sense of purpose and meaning.”

“You are really not supposed to mention any moral or religious dimension to suicide.
I received an official unsigned letter from someone in the Ministry of Justice, saying:
‘Don’t foist your religious views on the public.’ Whereas from an empirical point of view I am saying that if you indulge in a certain course of conduct, death will follow. A religious person would say that wages of sin is death.”

Some suicides are for trivial reasons
“I once had to deal with three males who were friends and separately committed suicide. The first came from a wealthy family and asked his mother for $5,000 to go on a skiing holiday. She said he could have $3,000 and find the rest himself. They had a row and in a fit of pique, he got drunk and then suicided in his car with carbon monoxide.”

“The second male had a new girlfriend who refused his sexual advances. They had a row, he got drunk and suicided in his car with carbon monoxide.”

“The third male was 22 and newly married. He had a row with his wife and then shot himself.”

“They all came from wealthy families and had been drinking at the time of their deaths. The father of the last young man told me after the inquest, that all three had the same attitude, which was: if you can’t get what you want, then life isn’t worth living.”

“Over the years, I have dealt with many cases where teenage boys are turned down for sex by a girl and go out and kill themselves.”

Suicide notes are a revelation
“Most young men write sentiments like: ‘F-k the world, F-k Mum and Dad.’ Two young men wrote: ‘F-k this terrible world where you can’t go skateboarding or smoke dope.’ They were 17 and 18 and killed themselves with carbon monoxide.

“Most notes have very poor spelling and bad grammar. Occasionally there is a well-thought out letter, but the others reflect the distressed state and the influence of drink or dope.”

“The root sources of their distress come back to parenting, parenting and parenting. Parents should get down with their kids and make the effort to relate with them.”

Death Metal and suicide notes
“After an epidemic of cases involving teenage suicide, where the deaths occurred in their rooms with the generic ‘dark music’ playing, I started to read the lyric notes. Often you came across the phrase ‘This is the way to go’ and that same statement recurred in the suicide notes.”

Marijuana and suicide
“With regular teenage use of dope, you have a combination of lack of motivation, poor learning ability, dropping out of school and the consequent problems with finding and keeping a job. After a few years, the realisation sinks in that they have stuffed up their lives and despair sets in.”

“Now it is recognised that marijuana is the springboard to harder drugs. After years of use their brains are affected, it’s harder to rationalise things and they can easily overdose on a mixture of drugs. It’s not a classic case of deliberate suicide, but more suicidal behaviour given the risks. Where there is latent schizophrenia marijuana will make it emerge more readily.”

Prozac and suicide
“Prozac is a very useful anti-psychotic drug, but I am very critical of GPs giving it away too easily. It should only be prescribed after an examination by a psychiatrist. A number of people on Prozac have appeared to commit suicide, but it is more likely that these have been fatal accidents.”

“We have had reports from people who were prescribed Prozac and then went out and did all sorts of risky things like leaning over the balconies of high buildings. They have an unreal perception of the dangers and can lapse into an area of confusion or unreality and have a fatal accident. I can think of a prominent Australian academic who unwittingly leaned out of a high building and was rescued by his wife. He had felt completely safe. He was later diagnosed by another doctor as having a heart problem and is now in perfect health.”

Do people who attempt suicide have second thoughts?

“Yes, the evidence seems to indicate that they do. In San Francisco, there was a study of jumpers of the Golden Gate bridge who survived the fall and the majority said that the moment they jumped, they wanted to live. A similar study on a bridge in Mississippi, popular for suicides, found that 70% who survived immediately regretted their action after launching themselves into the air.”

“As a coroner, I have dealt with suicides by hanging, where it was obvious from the post-mortem report that the scratches on the neck indicated that the person changed their minds after stepping off the box or chair. They had desperately tried to get their fingers into the noose to loosen the grip around their neck. One harrowing example was from an elderly man walking in a park, who heard screams and ran over to find a young man swinging from a branch and trying to force the noose open. Unfortunately he couldn’t manage it.”

Business problems and suicide
“Many people with business problems feel overwhelmed, become despairing and commit suicide. The tragedy is that they try and solve matters themselves, rather than seek the professional help and advice of lawyers and accountants. They think that nobody wants to know, which is a mistake. It is very important that people who think they are getting into a hole, talk to a friend or a professional adviser.”

De facto relationships and suicide
“De facto relationships are a fruitful source of suicides, with the greatest casualties amongst young men. How do we know this? Well it comes out through the in-depth police enquiry and talking to the parents and next-of-kin.”

The trigger for suicide is usually rejection. The attraction of de facto relationships is that there is not the formal obligations and commitment required in marriage, but also there is not the same standards of compatibility required. What seems to happen is that both partners enjoy a ‘party’ lifestyle, and then perhaps the man can’t keep up the pace and wants a quieter life. The woman wants her own space, they have differences, she finds someone else – and the guy can’t take the rejection.”

The Coroner’s role in a suicide
“The coroner goes to the mortuary and is informed about the suicide. The pathologist makes a detailed examination and two-or three days later gives the coroner the definitive report. The coroner signs an order for the disposal of the body after the pathologist’s interim finding and the police contact the funeral director.”

“The coroner then notifies the police by sending them a copy of the post mortem report and the need for an inquest. The coroner’s secretary then takes over (acting under the coroner’s direction) and makes all the arrangements for a date of hearing. The police notify the family about the inquest and where it will be held and they also make available any reports. In my experience, the police handle these matters with admirable sensitivity.”