Mum of suicide victim says law change needed

By Edward Gay

Toran Henry. Photo / Supplied
Toran Henry. Photo / Supplied

A mother who lost her son to suicide says more reporting of the issue is needed to generate change.

Maria Bradshaw's 17-year-old son, Toran Henry, took his own life in 2008 after being referred to youth mental health services following a self-harm attempt.

Ms Bradshaw said she supported Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean who has said reporting suicides responsibly could save lives.

Coroners are restricted on what information can be released, except name, age, occupation, and finding of self-inflicted death under the Coroners Act 2006.

Ms Bradshaw said she would never have got six separate inquiries into her son's death and subsequent policy changes if it had not been for the media.

"All the journalists involved have been really sensitive to me, to Toran and to Toran's friends," Ms Bradshaw said.

She said the media has a responsibility to report accurately and in a fair and balanced manner but restrictions should be no different to rape, murder or car accidents.

Ms Bradshaw said reporting suicide responsibly would not result in copycat suicides, just as reports of murder do not result in copycat murders.

She said she is starting up a group called Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education and Research (CASPER).

Ms Bradshaw said she hoped the group would also provide support to the families of suicide victims.

Judge pushes for law change

Judge MacLean said New Zealanders are taking their own lives at a rate 50 per cent higher than the road toll but the deaths got little attention.

There were concerns media reporting could cause copycat suicides, but responsible reporting could potentially save lives, he told Fairfax Media.

Statistics released by Judge MacLean show the number of deaths ruled as self-inflicted has been about 540 for each of the past three financial years while the road toll has dropped from 435 in 2004 to 390 last year.

More than 2500 New Zealanders are admitted to hospital annually after intentional self-harm.

Judge MacLean said he "tended to agree" with a call made by South Australian coroner Mark Johns last month.

Mr Johns said suicides should be reported the same way as the road toll, with tables of how people were taking their own lives.

"My personal view is that there's room for some gentle opening up of things ... but it probably requires legislative change to restore the balance, and that's a matter for a conscience vote in Parliament," Judge MacLean said.

It was "probably OK" to print statistical information about methods of suicide.

"I'm sympathetic to the view that there's sufficient curiosity of the media on behalf of the public to say: 'What's happening in New Zealand; what are our figures and what are the trends?"' he said.

- with NZPA

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