Christchurch quake blamed for suicide

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Phillip Cooke's death last year is believed to be the first suicide formally attributed to the Christchurch earthquakes. Photo / Simon Baker
Phillip Cooke's death last year is believed to be the first suicide formally attributed to the Christchurch earthquakes. Photo / Simon Baker

Christchurch's earthquakes have claimed their first suicide.

Coroner Sue Johnson's finding on the death of Phillip Cooke, 54, in January last year is believed to be the first suicide formally attributed to the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes, a Justice Ministry spokesman said.

Ms Johnson found the railway worker was being treated for depression brought on by the earthquakes when he took his own life.

"His home in Avonside was without power and water for weeks after the September 4, 2010 earthquake and after the February 22, 2011 earthquake it was so severely damaged it became uninhabitable," she said in her ruling released yesterday.

Mr Cooke had been particularly affected by the February quake which forced him and and his elderly mother into a much smaller house on the other side of town. "Prior to the earthquakes, Mr Cooke was a happy, balanced, even-keeled and stable person actively involved in the community, never becoming flustered in a crisis and always calm and collected," Ms Johnson said.

Friends of Ferrymead Society president Martin James said he had known Mr Cooke for more than 25 years and had supported him.

"To lose someone who was so interested in people, so organised and motivated is an absolute tragedy," he said. "Phillip was one of the most balanced, unflustered people. He had a really good sense of humour and was a person who organised others."

Mr James said he didn't see any suicidal signs in his friend.

"By no means was he 100 per cent, but I thought he was well on the road to recovery."

Where to turn

If you need to talk to someone:
* Lifeline: 0800 543 354
* Youthline: 0800 376 633
* Samaritans: 0800 726 666
* If it is an emergency dial 111 immediately.
* Suicide Prevention Information: New Zealand has more information about mental health services, counsellors, doctors and support groups. Visit: www.spinz.org.nz.

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