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    I have counselled many men who had been or who were currently suicidal. Without exception, what motivated those men to think about or attempt suicide never had anything to do with media reporting of suicide, or the lack thereof. Like suicide itself, their motivation to (possibly) end their own lives was diverse and complex, and not easily reduced to a dumbed down fallacy like ‘suicidal people are depressed’.

    I am sure that by shrouding suicide in taboo and mystique, and by constructing its potential subjects as perpetually vulnerable and ‘at risk’, the suicide prevention industry gives itself plenty of wiggle room to escape such pressing questions as, ‘where’s the evidence?’. For example, where’s the evidence that gay youth are actually at much higher risk of completing suicide than their straight counterparts?

    The fact is, there is none. It is simply a myth, perpetuated by sensitivity and silence.

    Time, I say, for some open, critically aware debate about suicide…

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    The vexed question of suicide reporting persists. Sally Jackson brings up the “2191 suicides of 2008”, which takes it into very murky waters: rates published in Australia should not be believed.
    The ABS reports 2098 suicides in 2004. The WHO reports Australian suicides in 2004 as a rate of 21.1/100,000 (16.7 male, 4.4 female), obviously from data supplied by our bureaucrats/agencies. I see those data as accurate, not believing they would lie to the WHO. The population in 2004 was 20,200,00; using WHO figures, this equates to 4,262 Australian suicides in 2004. No new data have been sent from here and the WHO uses the same rate in 2008, 21.1/100,000. In 2008 our population was 21,180,000. This equates to 4469 suicides in 2008; This is more than twice the number reported to us, 2191 suicides. This deception is relevant to the article. It makes even more opaque the question of our knowledge of suicide, its prevalence and its reporting.
    I see suicide as a fact of life, suffering and death; I have always spoken freely of my daughter’s tragic death by suicide, hoping others will do so as well, and more and more of us are speaking out. This can only help the seriously mentally ill of today.
    I agree with Julian Disney that reporting of suicide should be “good quality and responsible”. The question of its reporting leading to further suicide needs to be thrashed out, but I agree with Pat McGorry that the risks appear to be overstated. Barbara Hocking’s description of media reporting of suicide as a “balancing act” is apt. Attitudes to suicide reporting will change. I am from a long-ago childhood where “cancer” was a whispered word we were not supposed to hear. Suicide will also be one day seen as a tragic yet normal part of what it is to be human, to live and to die.
    Until that day, we must hammer away at two important matters: firstly, the culpability of governments and bureaucrats lying, publishing false death rates (a base insult to our beloved dead) so that underfunding and undertreating of the seriously mentally ill may continue; secondly, the fact that the public must be made aware of the constantly rising suicide rate, possibly becoming more understanding of serious mental illness and its ability to destroy a once-normal person.
    We need a box graph, published every month so that it becomes expected, of suicide numbers in every state and territory for the previous month. An appointment needs to be made, medico-legal perhaps, to collate numbers through contact with Coroners’ Offices. A problem now is that some suicides are not named as such after pleading by desperate families because of insurance/financial concerns or from shame of a family suicide. Coroners would have to feel free to enumerate every suicide and describe its method (necessary for research) without needing to name the person. Their lapse is worth countenancing in order, at last and possibly for the first time, to obtain accurate numbers of completed suicides.
    Such a regularly published record dispenses with the problems of privacy, inaccuracy of coroners’ figures, the question of copying of suicides and the matter presented by Barbara, of suicide reports affecting people who are themselves ill.
    I don’t see this as difficult to do. I do see it as a sensible solution to the problem.


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