11.45am

An unqualified counsellor has been turning up uninvited to the funerals of Hamilton people who have committed suicide, warning other family members could be next to take their own lives.

Jack Gielen's New Zealand Suicide Prevention Trust, which only operates in the Waikato, has been labelled "dangerous" and "inappropriate" by other counselling groups and the Youth Development Ministry.

Sharyn Kerr first met Mr Gielen at her 16-year-old son's funeral in December.

After the service, he came back to Ms Kerr's house for the wake where he circulated among family members for two hours.

Mr Gielen did not approach Ms Kerr until he was about to leave. He told her he feared Ms Kerr's elder son might go on to commit suicide.

Ms Kerr said she was shocked by Mr Gielen's advance.

"You're traumatised any way. For someone to be saying that might happen is too much."

Mr Gielen later gave Ms Kerr's sister-in-law, Morna Kerr, a training booklet and encouraged her to set up a counselling group in her home town of Te Awamutu.

"I could have been anyone, he didn't do a police check or anything," Morna Kerr said.

The booklet stresses the need for counsellors to go through "cleansing rituals" after speaking with relatives of the bereaved. These include sprinkling yourself with water, symbolically flicking away negative energy, and "lying on your back in the cruciform position, lying in the wounds of Jesus".

Youth Development Ministry suicide prevention national co-ordinator Sue van Daatselaar said the trust's literature was not backed by any research. The trust had misrepresented suicide rates in New Zealand and wrongly blamed the increasing rates of suicide on feminism and political correctness.

The trust has been handing out wallet-sized cards featuring an 0800 number on the front, and a list of organisations on the back.

But some of those -- Hamilton's Rape and Sexual Abuse Healing Centre, Relationship Services, and the Union of Fathers -- have all asked to be removed from the card.

Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand, an organisation contracted by the Government to provide information about suicide prevention, said the trust's methods were not ethical.

Manager Merryn Stathan said the practice of counsellors attending funerals uninvited was "dangerous" because the counsellor would not know what emotional state the family was in.

The trust was included with a range of other community groups in Waikato District Health Board meetings last year designed to plan suicide prevention strategies.

Project manager Grant O'Brien said it made a valuable contribution to the discussion, despite the fact that the other groups present did not agree with its methods.

"We involved them in that exercise because they are a stakeholder in that area of health. They supposedly meet a need -- they have a client base, so I suppose people find them useful."

None of the trust's suggestions were used in the strategy.

Mr Gielen said today there was too much sensitivity around suicide.

Going to funerals uninvited was not against the law and he did not see anything wrong with it, he said.

Suicide needed to be talked about more.

"Other counsellors are doing nothing about suicide," he said. "The problem comes when these stupid people come up with this ridiculous aversion to you trying to fix the real problem."

Trust treasurer Rick Hayward, also of Hamilton, said he had "ticked off" Mr Gielen about going to funerals because it might put the trust out of business. But he applauded Mr Gielen's enthusiasm.

"Jack really takes it on board. He takes a lot of the grief of people on board... Jack was chaffing at the bit to help people."

The group does not receive government funding and raises money through donations.

Mr Hayward defended the trust's alternative counselling methods, saying there was no outlet for ritual in modern society.

"We look at alternative rituals because people have an incredible need for it. Because there's that lack of spiritual rituals, and everything is cerebral, the suicide rates are increasing alarmingly."

Mr Hayward and Mr Gielen do not have any formal counselling qualifications.

Mr Hayward said Mr Gielen read "12 or 15" counselling books a day and was passionate about the topic.

"He's basically like Abraham Lincoln, he's self-educated."

- NZPA