The Chief Coroner's calls for more debate about suicide reporting has struck a chord with the Government.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today he was "sympathetically disposed" to Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean's comments that there needed to be greater openness around the reporting and discussion of suicide.

"I am very open to what he is saying," Mr Dunne said.

"We need to take away the `mystery' of suicide without sensationalising or glorifying it."

Mr Dunne said he wanted to discuss the Chief Coroner's ideas at the next meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Suicide Prevention.

Judge MacLean's call this week has been generally welcomed, although some have urged caution over reporting of individual cases.

He said the number of New Zealanders taking their own lives was about 540 a year, 50 per cent higher than the road toll, but it received little attention.

Judge MacLean released a number of suicide statistics, including tables outlining what methods were used by people who took their own lives, and breakdowns of suicides by age groups and areas.

He said there were concerns media reporting could cause copycat suicides, but responsible reporting could potentially save lives.

Coroners are restricted by law in what information can be released, except name, age, occupation, and finding of self-inflicted death.

Journalists are bound by the 2006 Coroners Act and Ministry of Health guidelines, which, among other recommendations, say they should avoid "sensationalising, glamorising or romanticising suicide or giving it undue prominence".

Tim Pankhurst, chief executive of the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) and secretary of the Media Freedom Committee, said greater openness would allow media to play a greater role in helping deal with what he called "a huge scourge" in New Zealand.

"We're not arguing that we should be detailing how people kill themselves, but we should be an awful lot more flexible and debate about why people become so desperate that they take this step."

Mr Pankhurst said New Zealand had one of the most restrictive reporting regimes for suicide in the world yet still had one of the highest suicide rates, suggesting the current approach was not working.

He said greater reporting of individual cases could help with understanding of the issue.

"We do need to background more circumstances that lead to this, with the important caveat that we also detail where people can seek help, we detail the warning signs and also where we are publicising individual cases and they are the ones that have most importance, that we do it with the support of the families involved," he said.

"In many cases families are only too happy to talk about it and make some sense of what is an appalling tragedy."

A Ministry of Health report released last month showed media had been responsible in the way it reported suicides, he said.

- NZPA