Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Talking tough won't lessen pain of suicide

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Te Ururoa Flavell. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Te Ururoa Flavell. Photo / Mark Mitchell

I can understand Te Ururoa Flavell's frustration at seeing so many young people, particularly young Maori men, taking their own lives.

The Maori Party MP has been under fire after writing a column for Rotorua's Daily Post in which he advocated taking a harder line on suicides. He suggested that people who took their own lives should not be granted the same burial rights as those who died of natural causes - in effect, a return to the old days when suicides were refused Christian burials and relatives were unable to inter them in consecrated ground.

He's apologised now for any offence he may have caused, saying his remarks were made from a place of sadness, pain and frustration.

Ultimately, the tough approach to suicides that he advocated was only going to hurt those left behind. Imagine feeling that you'd failed someone you loved by not picking up on how desperate they felt and then feeling you were failing them again by not seeing them off properly.

I know it's frustrating and heartbreaking to see people giving up hope, particularly when there are clusters of suicides. Grief hysteria ignites heightened emotions and suicide spreads like a deadly virus.

The weeping teenage girls, the beautiful photos, the scented candles, the shrine to a loved one - all that can look pretty attractive to a kid who feels, albeit temporarily, unloved and alone. But there are so many reasons why people commit suicide that it's hard to generalise and hard to work out how to help, too.

Our suicide rate is greater than that of our road toll, so there are obviously a lot of people who are doing it tough.

Talking tough, however, isn't going to solve the problem.

- Herald on Sunday

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