Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Teen deaths not a suicide cluster - expert

Five young people who took their own lives over the space of four months had suffered 'emotional fragility', an expert has told an inquest.
Five young people who took their own lives over the space of four months had suffered 'emotional fragility', an expert has told an inquest.

Five young people who took their own lives in Kawerau over the space of four months had suffered from "emotional fragility" and may have likely had undiagnosed mental health issues, an expert has told an inquest.

The joint coronial inquest - held to determine any link between the deaths of Jordan Leigh Gray, 17, Kelly Karekare, 18, Te Haroto Araroa, 16, Tegan McGregor, 20, and Alex Junior Taku Mahutu, 17 between October 2010 and February 2011 - was held in Whakatane today.

Jordan's mother, Michele Elliott, told the inquest she did not believe the death of her son - who she described as "very sensitive" and "non-confrontational" - was related to any of the others.

She said the community had united in the wake of the tragedies, and more awareness was being shed on what she called a "silent curse" with a new support network stretching from Hawkes Bay to Waikato.

An expert on the issue, Dr Candy Cookson-Cox of Lakes District Health Board, said there was no evidence to support the deaths had been a "cluster".

"I can not say, aside from the fact that most of these youths knew each other or someone who knew someone who knew someone who had died previously."

She said the focus should be on the quality of the environment in which the young people were raised.

"Healthy towns reflect healthy populations and cohorts... unhealthy towns reflect this in the untimely or premature deaths of its young and most vulnerable populations."

Coroner Wallace Bain reserved his findings.

- NZ Herald

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