Mother's plea for suicide openness
Mike Dinsdale | 10th September 2010
Waipu mum Deb Williams knows the pain of suicide after daughter Cloud killed herself in 2008.
Waipu mum Deb Williams is sharing her pain with the world in the hope suicide – the silent epidemic – will be spoken about more openly.
Her daughter, Cloud, killed herself in 2008.
Today is the World Health Organisation's World Suicide Prevention Day, aimed at promoting worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides.
Northland has the second-highest suicide rate in New Zealand.
New Zealand's rate is the highest in the OECD.
In the 2007/08 financial year there were 22 confirmed suicides in Northland, 19 in 2008/09 and 20 in the 2009/10 year.
World Suicide Prevention Day comes a month after Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said there needed to be greater openness around the reporting and discussion of suicide in New Zealand.
Judge MacLean said the number of Kiwis taking their own lives was about 540 a year, 50 per cent higher than the road toll, but it received little attention.
He said there were concerns media reporting could cause copy-cat suicides, but responsible reporting could potentially save lives.
Deb agrees, saying keeping silent about the issue adds to any stigma people may feel and does not help in coming up with solutions.
She has formed a support group, Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education and Research (CASPER), with Maria Bradshaw, mother of Toran Henry, the Takapuna Grammar student who took his own life, in March 2008.
Deb said Cloud was a healthy, smart, beautiful girl who was looking forward to starting a business course in Auckland.
But on New Year's Eve, 2008, she had a bust up with her boyfriend.
Twenty-nine days later, on their fourth anniversary, she killed herself.
Deb said the pain and anguish was not restricted to direct family, but everybody who knew Cloud and she feels "gutted" she didn't know before the death what she knows now about suicide.
"I wonder if I did [have that knowledge] if I could have prevented things …
"I also wonder if New Zealand's high rate of prescribing anti-depressant drugs has anything to do with things. It at least needs to be investigated," she said.
Deb said she found that after Cloud's death there was very little support or help and she wanted more research into suicide.
"If there's a road death, they have a serious crash unit to go and investigate, and we need to have something like that for suicides. We also need to talk about it more, be more open about it," she said.
"I believe that knowledge is power and we really need to open this up for debate. There's too much silence on this issue. It's the silent epidemic and we won't stop it getting worse, and it is, until we bring the issues out into the open. If I'd known at the time that relationship break-ups is the main cause of suicides, I may have been able to do more, but I didn't know anything about suicide beforehand."
Deb urged parents to talk to their children openly about the issue and listen to any concerns they had and for those feeling down to seek help. "By talking about it more we give parents or other loved ones the ability to read the signs or do something about it before it gets to that tragic stage."
To check out CASPER go to www.wix.com/CASPER5982/CASPER