A suicide prevention group is putting lives at risk because of the emotionally charged meetings it runs, according to the Ministry of Health.

But the founder of Casper, a support group working with the devastated Bay of Plenty community of Kawerau, says her personal story of family tragedy is a better prevention tool than "a graph and a chart".

Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education and Research (Casper) was co-founded by Deb Williams and Maria Bradshaw, whose children took their lives in 2008.

But notes to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, released to the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act, say its work could trigger copycat suicides.


"Casper is a group of parents bereaved by suicide who use their experiences to discuss issues around youth suicide," the briefing says. "That experience can be emotion-based rather than evidence-based and may not provide information on the range of support services available. There is a risk that potential copycat suicides could be triggered ..."

But Bradshaw says emotion goes with the territory and the ministry's approach is divorced from reality: "People are more likely to relate to a story about a real child and the impact it had on their family than a graph and a chart."

She says the group doesn't refer people to mental health services because the ministry's own data showed people were 25 times more likely to commit suicide if they used them, and international evidence around copycat suicides was "flimsy."

There was no evidence that anyone who had attended a Casper presentation had committed suicide.

Chris Makoare, manager of the Glen Innes Family Clinic, who invited Casper to speak this month, agreed the experience was emotional but says what kept people interested was the information.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said any efforts to address suicide were welcomed but special care was needed.

Meanwhile, the National Party at its national conference in Wellington yesterday backed a remit to prioritise funding for initiatives to reduce our high youth suicide rate.

Youthline: Support for young people and their families.
Website: youthline.co.nz
Phone: 0800 376 633

Depression Helpline: Counsellors who can find the right support for you.
Website: depression.org.nz
Phone: 0800 111 757 (8am to midnight)

Rainbow Youth: Support for gay young people and their families.
Website: rainbowyouth.org.nz