Push to teach pupils about suicide

By Amelia Wade

Candice Lee Brown-Hunt. Photo / Supplied
Candice Lee Brown-Hunt. Photo / Supplied

The family of a teenage girl who took her own life two weeks after her best friend committed suicide want schools to implement an anti-bullying and suicide education programme.

The push is supported by a community action group, but secondary schools are hesitant, saying youth suicide is a community problem.

Kaitaia-born Candice Lee Brown-Hunt, 16, died on February 28 in Logan, Queensland. Her family said the grief of losing her best friend to suicide 17 days earlier and relentless bullying since primary school pushed her over the edge.

Her oldest sister, Kayla, said youth suicide was a big issue across Australia and New Zealand which needed to be addressed.

Last month the family started a petition urging the Queensland state Government to introduce education programmes on bullying and suicide to the school curriculum similar to the way students learn sexual education. So far it has received more than 500 signatures.

"Something needs to be done. I know this isn't going to stop bullying fullstop but maybe it'll cut it down and stop the suicides," said Miss Brown-Hunt.

Maria Bradshaw, founder of Casper - Community Action on Suicide Prevention and Research - said they supported the Brown-Hunts' push to have suicide awareness in schools.

"Suicide prevention should be in every school and the weight of public opinion is behind starting to talk about this issue and educating our kids about it."

In New Zealand, the Government has this month released a major new review of evidence to guide suicide prevention activities in schools.

It found programmes run through schools can be effective in recognising and supporting young people at risk of suicide, but that care must be taken to identify and manage any unintended negative consequences.

President of the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand Tom Parsons said he was not sure if an education programme in schools would be beneficial.

"It has to be tackled by the community and I'm hesitant in indicating that school is the best place for an educational policy targeting the students when a lot can be handled by society and the parents."

A Herald campaign on bullying last year began with Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean backing proposals to target cyber-bullying because of concerns it was helping to fuel New Zealand's high youth suicide rate.

Inciting someone to commit suicide will be punishable with up to three years in jail under the new laws.

Justice Minister Judith Collins later asked the Law Commission to bring forward recommendations on how to reduce the harm caused by cyber-bullies, and the Government is drafting legislation to make cyber-bullying a criminal offence.

Where to get help

If it's an emergency and you feel you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

* Youthline 0800-376-633
* Lifeline 0800-543-354
* Depression Helpline 0800-111-757
* What's Up 0800-942-8787 (noon-midnight).
* If you or someone you know wants advice on dealing with cyber bullies, contact the NetSafe help line 0508 NETSAFE (0508-638- 723).

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 31 Oct 2014 05:42:39 Processing Time: 403ms