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Suicide and community

Written By: - Date published: 1:13 pm, August 27th, 2011 - 67 comments
Categories: health, jobs, poverty - Tags: , ,

Child abuse. Poverty. Suicide. Our shockingly high rates of all three are a condemnation of this country. Following the release of data by the Chief Coroner, suicide is once again getting some time in the headlines:

PM promises to combat suicide

The government is seeking answers on how to best combat the country’s high suicide rates.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean has released provisional figures for the 2010-2011 year – showing young men and Maori are most at risk.  419 males died as a result of suicide from last July through to June this year, compared with 139 females.

Prime Minister John Key wonders what is going wrong.

Key is not the first to wonder, and there’s plenty of good material about (some from the previous government) if anyone fancies learning more about the subject. But note also this very interesting fact out of Christchurch:

Quake zone ‘cohesion’ cuts suicide rate

The reduction in the Christchurch suicide rate after the city’s deadly February earthquake has been attributed to people’s increased senseof “community cohesion” from the disaster. …

Psychiatric epidemiologist Professor David Fergusson, of Otago University at Christchurch, said there was some evidence that an area’s suicide rate either remained stable or temporarily declined after a natural disaster.

“This may be due to greater community cohesion and a sense of shared purpose, which is protective for those contemplating suicide.

“People who are facing natural disasters become part of a larger community which gives them far greater support and assistance than they would have got had the disaster not occurred.

“Their neighbours speak to them, they can join in the community, they can help others.

Community cohesion. A sense of purpose. (A job.) The suggestion that things give people hope, make it less likely for them to take their own lives, makes perfect sense to me. (Compare and contrast with the cult of the individual and the acquisition of junk.) Every party, every aspiring government, every politician, should be asked to set out what it is that they would do to build cohesion, purpose and communities in our country.

67 comments on “Suicide and community”

  1. thejackal 1

    Suicide Rate Increases Under National

    The latest suicide figures are out and predictably the rate of suicide has increased. The rate of people taking their own lives per 100,000 has increased from 12.04 in 2008/2009 to 12.65 in 2010/2011…

    • neoleftie 1.1

      The most telling comment for me was “When you create high unemployment, cut education funding, increase the cost of living, increase inequality and ensure there’s an underclass that has little hope to achieve, no matter how hard they work, there’s consequences”.
      Hey never mind its only the underclass and underperformers who are suffering.
      I still believe that every state resource should be geared around full employment.
      Go the Tories on there slash and burn service sectors cuts…the trickle down theory does work just wait and see…either the new skilled unemployed trick down to another country or trickle down to another class.

      • thejackal 1.1.1

        I thought it was interesting that table 7 of the data (DOC) shows that people who are unclassified in their employment status made up such a large group. From people classed as Other, Still Inquiring, Unavailable and Unlikely to be known making up 82 people with no employment status of the 558 deaths by suicide. I wouldn’t mind an explanation about that?

        • RedLogix

          Endlessly looking for the job that isn’t just isn’t there, and a society that tells you it must be all your fault…has to be one of the most psychologically corrosive things anyone has to live through.

          • aerobubble

            WINZ should be sued for torture. But its unlikely since we have no civil
            rights in NZ. A man who could not help himself, climbs into a Earth
            shaken building in a afterquake hell of a city to ‘steal’ two light fixtures.
            Police are so incapable of seeing how this desperate criminal suicidal
            intent to take something worthless as a cry for help. Awestruck.
            Surely they must know that no reasonable person would say that
            some intention steals for so little was doing it for the money!
            No apology has yet been forth coming, Police still feel they were right.

            But its worse. Would we say people need to use their right hand
            to sign documents? People have many unique needs. Some choose
            for example a life of seclusion. We’re on this planet, we need to
            spread to all the possible ways of behaving (that do no harm)
            yet where are the human rights laws to protect us, or where
            is the implimentation of protections to human rights, we don’t
            have them. You cannot live a free in NZ if the government National
            Socialism believes that your own ‘good’ to society is to be in
            unrewarding work.

            We lack protections for adults, so of course the protections
            of the poorest, most powerless, children are so bad.

  2. A Professor Omar has stated the following as suicide prevention for teens.
    Caring adults
    A safe place where teens can interact with caring adults
    A useful activity for teens to do

    Resources are required not some fact finding mission.

    How much money do the government tag for suicide prevention?

    25 million is going to be available for the control card (food card). Governments priorities really astound me.

    • prism 2.1

      The government only takes an interest in the difficulties people are facing, many of them caused or exacerbated by government decisions, because there are statistics that are looked at world wide. That’s why they need a fact finding mission because they have binned all the other stats and information they have received before with the thought, ‘What has this got to do with me. Surely it’s a SEP”.

      Luckily there are league tables for the OECD so these self-aspirational lads and lasses in Wellington feel uncomfortable at these awkward body stats falling on their splendid parade.

      • Treetop 2.1.1

        Professor Omar is an expert in the feild of youth suicide prevention. He was in NZ in November 2010. I consider his visit to be part of a fact finding mission. I doubt any of his recommendations have been acted on, probably due to the cost.

        A place I find to have the answer to many social health issues is the Waipareira Trust and they do not exclude any low income cultural group. Tamihere has managed to find 15 million for a purpose built centre which provides the following affordable services, dental, GP, child health, housing, mental health, budgeting, ante natal and possibly legal assistance. There are about 100 staff.

        To break the cycle of abuse on children a navigator is assigned to work with the family for up to three years. Chevy King was on Close Up earlier in the week and she made a comment that phone numbers to ring and being handed pamphlets was not sufficent for her to change her attitude or behaviour.

        In the past I worked for four years 15 hours a week doing family advocacy. I gave this up for the reasons that Chevy has stated about pamphlets and numbers to ring because I knew that a mentor was required in the home to assist in breaking bad habits.

        I know that the causes for child abuse are known and that there are triggers for suicide. What I need to see is the resources for programmes which are effective in preventing harm to children and to prevent suicide being a permanent solution to a tempoary problem.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      Considering the humiliation that goes along with that control card it’s likely to result in this government effectively putting $25m into increasing youth suicide.

  3. MrSmith 3

    Part of the problem is it costs money to sit down with your doctor, I would like to see the stats, but how about free doctors visits for kids up till say 25, these people need someone to talk to and every suicide affects a huge amount of people, its just cuts you off at the waste. Just heard the drunk one (Key) waffling on, saying he had “no idea or ideas” never a truer word spoken.

    • Treetop 3.1

      I thought a free clinic was shut down in Christchurch last year which focused on youth, mental health and very low income people. I know that there are youth one stop shops. Youth focused facilities are imperative, contraception, a clinical psychologist, a dentist, GP service, housing assistance…

      Key is disconnected from the world I live in and youth who have less life experience are left in a much dire situation than my generation.

      Just another f**k up where you cannot afford to get it wrong on the Key government.

  4. Oligarkey 4

    My prediction is that Key’s government will do nothing to lower suicide rates. As it is, his right-wing market doctrine requires that a percentage of people be left out of society through unemployment. These people are then further alienated from the community by Key’s beneficiary bashing rhetoric i.e. “breeding for business”. The young males that can’t get work when they are young often turn to drugs and crime as an escape. Once they’ve gained a criminal record they’re locked out of the labour market, and they have no future left to look forward to.

    To Key these people are simply collateral damage in the functioning of his “efficient market”. It’s the cold and mean reality of post-rogernomics New Zealand, and make no mistake, the National Party fully endorses this situation. Key’s claiming to care about the problem, let alone actually do something about it is just a lie.

    • vendetta 4.1

      Some good points here but suicide is not a problem restricted to the low socio-economic strata. The reasons for mental illness are many and varied and a lot of causes largely unknown, and it affects people from all walks of life.

      Agree that nothing constructive is likely to be accomplished in the short term however.

      • thejackal 4.1.1

        How do you explain suicide rates falling under Labour and increasing under National then vendetta? Perhaps you could argue with these studies that show a clear link between people living in low-socioeconomic areas having higher self harm rates….

        Suicide Risk in Relation to Socioeconomic, Demographic, Psychiatric, and Familial Factors: A National Register–Based Study of All Suicides in Denmark, 1981–1997

        CONCLUSIONS: Suicide risk is strongly associated with mental illness, unemployment, low income, marital status, and family history of suicide. The effect of most risk factors differs significantly by gender.

        Social and economic influence on suicide: A study of the situation in Italy.

        So, to ascertain the influence of social factors on suicidal behaviour in Italy, the regional distribution of suicides has been analyzed in relation to social security expenses, marriage, separation and divorce rates, crime rates, Gross Domestic Product per capita and consumers rates, occupational rates. Data has been collected from The Italian Institute for Statistical Analysis, 1992 (ISTAT) year book. Italy regional distribution of suicide rates for 1992 shows a clear and significant positive relationship with indicators of wealth and of social disintegration, in both genders.The main factor that mediates the influence of wealth on suicidal behaviour is the distribution of expenses on wealth.

        Addressing the Socioeconomic safety divide: A policy briefing (PDF):

        Overall, the evidence strongly indicates that people with low socioeconomic status and people who live in less affluent areas die more often by injury and violence than do people who live in other areas. Depending on the specific cause and definition of deprivation (see below), mortality rates among the children of unemployed parents are reported to be 38 times higher than among the children of the most affluent parents (Edwards et al., 2006a). Evidence shows a strong association between injury-related mortality and individual- and area-based material deprivation. This has been observed for most causes of injury (such as road traffic, self-direct- ed violence, interpersonal violence, poisoning and burns) and for several settings (such as home, work and transport). Although morbidity studies are less consistent, numerous studies show considerable differences between socioeconomic groups.

        • vendetta

          Interesting, I hadn’t read the Italian study before. As I pointed out below, I believe socio-economic factors are part of the puzzle but it’s not exclusively a problem of the poor. Just as gay and transgender people disproportionately commit suicide more frequently than straight people but it’s not a ‘gay problem’, or teenagers are at particular risk of suicide but it’s not strictly a ‘teenage problem’.

          Stronger communities can only help … but how can we help the poor/rich/gay/straight male/female/teen/adult who is depressed right now? A debate for another thread, I suppose.

          • thejackal

            Unfortunately an increase within those demographics is likely attributable to acceptance within the wider community. Despite what a lot of people might think, New Zealand has a deep running anti youth sentiment that is very destructive. Perhaps it’s jealousy, but whatever the reasons for the negativity, it pervades nearly every part of society. Even many of our representatives are ageist.

  5. vendetta 5

    Every now and then, a lot of noise gets made around suicide, a lot of hand-wringing is done, and people use the stats as a stick to bash the government of the day with. Then all is quiet once more, with very little sensible debate made or tangible solutions surfacing.

    While of course the government of the day should be doing all it can to help people into paid employment and a sense of purpose (and I am no fan of the current lot), more research is definitely needed around how to identify and assist at-risk people. The suggestion of free doctor’s visits could potentially be helpful but assumes this is solely a youth problem. Seeking answers is what we should be doing, because there is a huge risk of doing more harm than good by ‘being seen to be doing something’.

    Assuming, of course, the fact-finding mission actually goes ahead and is carried out in a useful manner…

    • neoleftie 5.1

      well vendette its a matter of health dollar allocation as explained by the then labour minister of health…if labour had another term and the economy and tax rake continued at normal terms mental health was next on the list of health improvements.

  6. millsy 6

    Doesnt help that our kids are characterised as lazy, selfish, spoiled and with too high expectations by a generation that had everything handed to them on a plate.

    Case in point. In the 60’s and 70’s you could walk out of school and into a decent job with a chance of a career pathway and a decent wage at 15, 16.

    Dont think its possible today.

    • neoleftie 6.1

      still is if you are from a well connected elite family who have opportunties to burn.

  7. Bill 7

    I’m not going to argue that socio/economic factors have nothing to do with suicide. But we all know there are a host of other reasons too.

    One thing that is always overlooked is the culpibility of the medical profession.

    How many times you heard of a kid (or adult) on prescribed psychotropic drugs saying that they have gotten suicidal after beginning the course of medication?

    How many of the random ‘shoot em up’ episodes have been carried out by people coming off such meds ‘cold turkey’? ( usually we hear that the person had ‘a history of depression’ meaning they were on script meds and/or that they hadn’t been adhering to their med regime)

    And how many people do you know who are on, or have been on such meds for no bloody good reason?

    Seems that any everyday life situation can lead to pills being dished out. Lost your job? The fact you are angry and/or down plus whatever else is symptomatic of a disease. (Forget that it might just be a normal human reaction to have various emotions surface given a particular situation). Have a pill.

    And the efficacy of the medications (never mind the ‘diseases’ they are meant to treat) have no scientific basis what-so-ever. None.

    And studies show that suicide rates go up among patients prescribed the various trendy anti-depressants and anti-anxiety tablets.

    But now that we’ve had Peter Dunne and the government announce that psychotropic drugs such as ‘Kronic’ will have to prove that they are safe before they can be put on sale, we will (thankfully) be seeing an end to the tidal wave of un-testable, unscientific and often deliterious brain altering substances that are foisted on the public…oh, unless you are a major pharmacutical pusher I guess… though I wonder if they thought that one through and made the necessary allowances in the legislation?

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Medicating away our inability to connect with life and with each other.

      • bbfloyd 7.1.1

        an interesting statistic that may, or likely not show up, is that the bulk of suicides by people who have been prescribed anti-depressants occur just after they have been taken off the medication..

        the real world crashing in… without the mask that the drugs provide, the reasons for going on anti-depressants in the first place become, if anything, more sharply focused than before the course of drugs..

  8. vendetta 8

    This whole ‘it’s a big pharma conspiracy’ is misleading. Fact is, antidepressants work for many people. There are many alive now who credit their being here to these drugs. Possibly this has something to do with placebo effect, and this should be explored more. But the idea that evil drug companies are pushing pills that actively make people suicidal and do no good are frankly ridiculous, even by the rules of capitalism it’s hardly good business sense.

    A lot of people take time to find the right dosage and type of these drugs, much as many women need to try a few versions of the Pill to find one that reacts with their body appropriately. Many also ignore medical advice and take inappropriate doses or mix with alcohol or other recreational drugs.

    And yes, they are probably over-prescribed.

    • Bill 8.1

      Vendetta. Every anti depressant that has ever been marketed has been withdrawn eventually due to side effects or because they just don’t bloody well work as claimed.

      Heroin and cocaine were used initially. Then there were barbiturates. Then there was ‘mothers little helper’, valium etc.

      Remember Prozac? That was next. A ‘wonder drug’ they said. Causes suicide. And what about ritalin? Highly addictive, prescribed to children and the same chemical signature as cocaine.

      And what are all these things ‘treating’? The psychiatric industry literally invents illnesses to treat. They actually have a book that is an ever growing list of so-called illnesses. Homosexuality used to be one.

      SAD, ADHD etc etc etc. They are all invented by psychiatrists. They have no empirical or scientific basis that would mark them as ‘conditions’ at variance with the normal human condition. (But they got just the pill for you 😉 )

      In the past couple of years the industry has paid out a couple of billion in damages. But since it’s worth (from memory) $US 22 billion, a couple of billion is peanuts.

      It’s not a conspiracy. It’s business. Very profitable business.

      Where there is addiction, the industry refers to ‘dependency’ (implying that the person needs the drug to keep their ‘illness’ under control when the fact is that the person will get all manner of horrific withdrawals if they stop taking their daily dose.). Where there are thoughts of suicide, the industry refers to ‘harmful thoughts’. And so it goes on.

      Let me throw this at you. We hear that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Sounds kind of scientific, doesn’t it? Thing is, it’s not. There is no way at present to measure the chemicals of the brain…seratonin or whatever else. So no-one can talk intelligently of an imbalance and claim to have a drug to ‘correct’ the balance.

      Do you know how these drugs get FDA approval? The drug companies submit two trials that show efficacy. They might have had to run fifty to get two. But that’s okay.

      And they might have given everyone a placebo in the first stage of a trial and then removed everyone who reported an effect from the next stage of the trial.

      And they might have three groups. One with 1000 people. One with 12 people and another with 5 people. All they have to show is that two out of three groups displayed efficacy.

      And the psychiatrists who sit on the FDA committees don’t have to declare conflicts of interest (payment from the company whose drug is under consideration) if the conflict is worth less than $US 50 000.

      The drugs we are putting into our brains are coming from a business model that treats the selling of those drugs as would a toy manufacturere treat next Xmas’s ‘next big thing’. The only difference is that they do a risk/benefit analysis. And just like the toy manufacturer wants to convince you of the need to have, so it is with the drug companies. And they have a drug ‘for every occasion’…or every human event and emotional reaction at any rate.

      And it’s profitable for them and dangerous for the poor buggers diagnosed and ‘scripted. Seriously. Do a google for the various high school shootings. Read the press reports. They stopped taking their meds or weren’t taking them as prescribed.

    • thejackal 8.2

      How do you explain all of the recalled anti-depressant medications then vendetta?

      December 2006 Update: FDA Plans to Extend Antidepressant Suicide Warning

      Since 2004, antidepressants have had a black-box warning (the FDA’s strongest warning) about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and adolescents. In December 2006, the Food and Drug Administration federal panel recommended the agency extend the black box warning to alert patients and doctors that antidepressants can also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in young adults in their late teens and early 20s. The recommendation to extend the antidepressant suicide warning to young adult patients came after the FDA’s review of 372 clinical trials found a small but significant risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior among 18- to 24-year-olds who took antidepressants. The agency said that four of 1,000 patients were at increased risk.

      March 2004 – The antidepressant drugs which the FDA is reviewing for a possible increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior and to carry the proposed warnings, include: Prozac (fluoxetine); Zoloft (sertraline); Paxil (paroxetine); Luvox (fluvoxamine); Celexa (citalopram); Lexapro (escitalopram); Wellbutrin (bupropion); Effexor (venlafaxine); Serzone (nefazodone); and Remeron (mirtazapine).

      March 2005 – Only Prozac has been approved to treat childhood depression, but the other drugs can be prescribed legally as an off-label use. Even Prozac causes a 50% higher risk of suicidal behavior in kids, according to an FDA analysis released last fall.

      In 2003, British health authorities warned that long-suppressed research suggests certain antidepressant drugs might sometimes increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children and teenagers.

    • Colonial Viper 8.3

      I am no fan of these psychoactive drugs, but I’ll toss my hat in with vendetta here, some people have really been helped short term by anti-depressants. And some very probably hurt. And look up how maternal antidepressant use has now been linked to autism in babies.

      The main issue is that they are being treated like lollies now, a panacea to help people ignore how shit things are, suppressing the need to change and the urge to fight back.


      THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) — Americans are popping more antidepressants than ever before to deal with everyday stress, and non-psychiatrists are increasingly willing to prescribe the drugs to patients with no mental health diagnosis, a new study finds.

      I read elsewhere that more than 10% of Americans are now on antidepressants. I guess there is a lot of every day stress happening in the US at the moment.

      • Bill 8.3.1

        There is no way to know that people have been helped by short term anti-depressant courses.

        All that can be said is that somebody was depressed and now they’re not. And that they took pills.

        As I said (below?) depression passes. And even if it doesn’t, well hey the Victorians thought melancholia was sexy…which has got to be a ‘pick me up’, no? 🙂

        It’s all within the bounds of normal human behaviour or expression of the human condition. Nobody said life was meant to be a never ending high. (Or if they did, they should have been laughed out of town) No need to medicalise our normality

    • Bill 8.4

      Missed that wee point you made about the contraceptive pill. See, I don’t see how you can equate messing with someones fertility to messing with someones emotional state. Especially seeing as how one is based on scientific observations and is verifiable and the other int.

      Most depression passes withoout medication. Some requires a bit of tlc from some quarter or other. Pills that cause a panopoly of complications in’t the answer.

      I’ll say this. It’s not scientific. But every person I’ve known before they ‘got pilled’ has never regained the vitality of the person they were. Something is missing. A bit like ex- junkies, theres a permanent ‘dead spot’.

      • vendetta 8.4.1

        Not meant to be taken quite so literally, just a point that different people react to different medicines in different ways.

    • millsy 8.5

      Horribly unPC here, but we are reaping the rewards of the closure of the mental hospitals here.

      While the abuses that went on in the likes of Kingseat, Tokanui, Lake Alice, etc were abhorrent, and those responsible should be made accountable for their actions, I tend to think that a few weeks rest and recoupration in a hospital is probably better than shoving pills down ones throat.

      As for ADHD/ADD, etc, getting rid of junk food, and soft drinks from a child’s diet can probably do wonders for them.

      • just saying 8.5.1

        The abhorrent abuses you speak of went on in every such institution. How can you possibly believe that there would be any therapeutic benefit (for the distressed person) in a few weeks of abuse degradation, humiliation etc.? A holiday in the sun would cost the state about the same…..

    • bbfloyd 8.6

      you forget one very important factor in the “success” stories.. the vast majority of successful outcomes using anti-depressants have at their base, a strong support network…

      the drugs only work when there are people around the sufferer prepared to become involved in the recovery process..

      if a sufferer of depression is socially isolated, then the drugs will, at best, only delay the collapse… this isn’t universal, but in most cases family, friends, competent health professionals being involved and supportive is essential..

  9. Bill 9

    “Horribly unPC here, but we are reaping the rewards of the closure of the mental hospitals here”

    Nope. The medical industry is. All those people being convinced to put bars inside their heads to keep themselves ‘safe’ from their natural inclinations = $$$$$

    • vendetta 9.1

      This is a seperate issue here, and also one which needs discussing: the tendency for people to equate being ‘a bit down’ with depression. IMO even a lot of the medical profession get this one wrong a lot of the time.

      The people who need ADs are not the ones with ‘a bit of melancholia’. People who are grieving, or experiencing a breakup do not need to be heavily medicated. The clinically depressed, who cannot get out of bed, cannot see through to tomorrow, can barely think or function do.

      It’s a scale with a lot of shades of grey in between too.

      • rosy 9.1.1

        “The people who need ADs are not the ones with ‘a bit of melancholia’. People who are grieving, or experiencing a breakup do not need to be heavily medicated”

        I cannot agree more that there are problems around mixing of people whose unhappiness has been has been redefined as depression, and those with real life-threatening clinical depression.

        Marriage break-up and grieving can bring on clinical depression. Someone very close to me lost his little girl after she had an 18-month long fight with cancer. The fallout from this led to his marriage breaking up. His resilience went out the window and without short-term well-monitored anti-depressants I can’t see how he would have survived.

        Yes, if he had time out in a peaceful, enclosed environment to work through these life changes he might not have needed meds, but there were his remaining kids who needed him (and his income ). Compare that to another case of a young mum I know who was too easily offered anti-depressants to get through the day when all she needed was support, to not be isolated and not be short of money (she turned them down – she knew what her problem was).

        This whole issue is over-run with sweeping statements and misinformation. Until counselling and support is readily available you’re right about there being a place for anti-depressants for people who can’t function, but not as a quick fix for unhappiness.

        • Bill

          I have to disagree with you Rosy.

          The example you give of the friend losing his daughter and having his marriage breakup was a person acting and reacting normally (as I’m sure you’d agree). The problem was the situation he was expected to continue within (job and father).

          If we lived as our ancestors might have done in (say) mutually supporting communities with extended families, then the ‘time out’ and support would have been a given.

          In other words, what I’m saying is that it’s the society we live in, that pressures and compels us to ‘perform’ that is sick ( and more in need of a bullet than a pill imo); not the person who, for whatever reason can’t adapt to its sicknesses .

          • rosy

            Yes, you’re right. The point is we we don’t have that sort of society. The cause is easily identifiable, but the solution today is not available. ADs are an interim fix, but until we get it back to a society that can provide for the needs of a person who can no longer see the point in living there needs to be something to save the lives of such people until their resilience is restored.

            • Bill

              ADs in that case are not ‘an interim fix’. They are a mechanism that enables the continuation of a society that can’t provide for peoples’ needs. They medicalise the individual. And that allows the situation… the environment, the context… to be ignored.

              • rosy

                “They are a mechanism that enables the continuation of a society that can’t provide for peoples’ needs. They medicalise the individual. And that allows the situation… the environment, the context… to be ignored.”

                Yes, but that means ADs ARE an interim fix. There is nothing else available in a clinical sense to manage the context of the depression, so managing the depression with ADs is necessary. I wouldn’t have thought so before I saw how dire the probable outcome for someone whose resilience had gone. I have the same abhorrence as you do for re-labelling and medicalising unhappiness. However unmitigated unhappiness can tip over into clinical depression.

                Huge sums of money and huge re-organisation of resources are required to change this situation, and no political parties have the guts to do this. Until that time arrives, ADs can help save lives. The problem with them in the current set-up is incorrect ‘diagnosis’ and over-prescribing – not that antidepressants exist.

                • Bill

                  Put a monkey in a cage and monitor its behaviours. It will exhibit ‘unnatural’ traits when compared to monkeys in the jungle. But its behaviours are perfectly normal given its situation…depression, anxiety, self harm or whatever.

                  Why try to make the monkey ‘adjusted’, ie to exhibit ‘desirable’ behaviours…an approximation or imitation of those exhibited by monkeys observed in the wild?

                  It’s behaviour is normal. It’s the external environment that’s fundamentally abnormal. Our behaviours are normal. Why medicate them. It’s our society that’s fundamentally abnormal.

                  IMO re-prioritising this or that is akin to hanging playful distractions in the monkey’s cage.

                  • rosy

                    So Bill until we get a society that cares, until we get a government that prioritises mental health and is willing to pay for the time-out and counselling that people with depression might need, what do you suggest is the appropriate course of action?

  10. vendetta 10

    It’s really tricky. Suicide, depression, mental health, I’ve had a lot of dealings and done a lot of reading over the years with all three, and it’s scary that this is literally an area of health where there are more questions than answers, and a lot is still unknown about the various chemical reactions that take place in the brain.

    Agree that it is tragic and disgusting that young people (with different brain chemistry to adults) were exposed to these drugs at an increased risk of suicidal behaviour. More regulation and rigorous controls around research are definitely needed.

    But completely discrediting antidepressants is an overreaction. They do work for some. Likely they will be improved as more research becomes available and more facts are known. They’re strong medicines that should be prescribed with caution (doesn’t currently happen) and taken very carefully as directed, and they’re not meant to be a cure-all happy pill, they’re mood regulators intended to keep the individual balanced enough until circumstances improve or they can seek psychotherapy. They are far from perfect, but they’re hardly the work of the devil either – currently they’re the best modern medicine has to offer.

    • Bill 10.1

      But if there is no illness, then why medicate?

      It’s natural to get desperately unhappy, debiltatingly anxious etc given the ‘right’ situation.

      It’s not nice. It’s not desirable. And sometimes we need help to get out of a rut or develop another perspective or whatever. And sometimes we can’t get out of the rut or change, no matter what….sometimes the situation persists.

      That’s life. Not illness.

      • vendetta 10.1.1

        IMO because at some point, it isn’t just ‘life’. Haven’t you ever known people who seem, by all accounts, to have everything going for them and yet have been struck by depression?

        And no, depression, real clinical depression, isn’t just a touch of the blues, and it doesn’t just pass. It’s debilitating, and often results in death. Think about that for a moment – just how bad would things have to get before death is preferable? Given how terrifying the prospect of death is to the average person, it’s clear that all is not functioning as it should be in the mind of a truly depressed individual. And we don’t yet have particularly clear knowledge around to ‘cure’ the brain.

        • Bill

          I know what depression is.

          And I’d suggest (if we are talking solely about depression) that perceiving life as meaningless rather than ‘bad’ would tend to precipitate suicide…ending the pointlessness, the ‘waste of time’.

          Meanwhile, is being terrified of death a mark of sanity? What’s there to be afraid of? It just doesn’t make sense. It is not anything any of us will ever experience. We’ll be dead. Do you know what I mean? It’s not as if there’s a possibility that we’re going to reflect on it.

          Maybe it’s that fear that is an indication that “all is not functioning as it should be in the mind..”

          • vendetta

            While personal experience may not be the strongest argument, everybody I have known to suffer depression said they didn’t truly wish to die, they wanted the pain to stop, wanted their lives back the way they were before and couldn’t see a way out. Some of them now do have a new life and a new sense of purpose, thanks to medication, psychotherapy and support.

            Nice point re death, but a bit obtuse. Not many people can rationalise away the fear of their non-existance, whether it makes sense or not it’s a pretty basic human reaction.

            I suppose, what it comes down to is if I found myself in that situation (though I guess you can’t know until you’re in it), I would probably take the drugs. As the last resort, not the first. But then, I understand clinical depression to be a genuine issue in the brain’s chemistry – it makes sense to me that the body’s most complex organ can experience problems just like the heart, liver etc. And that these problems can likely be solved with some form of medication (of which the forms currently available are rather imperfect, I concur). But I’m pretty sure you don’t share my definition so we’ll never see eye to eye.

            • Bill

              “But then, I understand clinical depression to be a genuine issue in the brain’s chemistry…”

              There is absolutely no scientific basis for that assertion. None. Not a single study.

              The heart and the liver and the brain etc can experience problems of toxicity (ie chemically induced damage). And the liver or the kidneys can produce measurable chemical ‘trails’ if they cease to function properly due to some material factor (a blow, poison etc).

              But psychiatry is saying that because you saw something (for example a mangled body, or several or whatever) that that has caused an illness…a chemical imbalance…. and you need pills.

              It’s hocus pocus.

              The emotional reaction…the depression…. is real. But it’s not an illness as the psychiatrists would have you believe. It has no immediate physiological expression as illnesses do and yet they want to administer drugs!

              • vendetta

                The idea of illnesses being caused by micro-organisms used to be thought of as utterly ridiculous too.

                Science and medical research shall prove one of us wrong, in due course, though sadly perhaps not in our lifetimes. Agree to disagree.

        • Face Facts

          I don’t give a fuck, you know the TRUTH IS all you have ever done- is buggerised around and that is all you do is fluff around like a fucking fluff-brain.
          And to be perfectly honest I can’t be fucked with you anymore.
          You take advantage of my generosity, patience and time.
          Your just not worth it, you obviously have made bad choices in your life and I suppose now you going to have to live with it.

          You have never once shown any courage or strength, not once and all I do is carry you.

          You provoke me into fighting with you because you have a serious handicap when it comes to intimacy and it’s always me- in the end who has to write to you- soothing you, loving you, being supportive to you- well get fucked I’m sick of it.

          And don’t think I am defeated by having thoughts of suicide, anyone who is stuck on this earth with a bunch of fucking mutant heartless pricks would agree with me- it isn’t fucking worth it. I can actually ‘handle’ staying here it is just- I DON’T WANT TOO!

          You just continue with your “career”.

          Good on you- you fucking ‘made it”.

    • thejackal 10.2

      But the idea that evil drug companies are pushing pills that actively make people suicidal and do no good are frankly ridiculous, even by the rules of capitalism it’s hardly good business sense.

      That’s exactly what many of the drug companies get up to vendetta, and they’re getting sued for it. If you were truly well read on the subject, you would not have said it was ridiculous to question the drug companies. Whether the thousands of people adversely affected will see anything of that money is another question, but what is beyond doubt is that the drug companies did indeed put dangerous anti-depressants onto the market without proper testing that have caused people to commit suicide. In some instances, the drug companies knew that there would be an increase risk of suicide, but went ahead anyway.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some drugs that are beneficial. But because of over prescribing and incorrect application, antidepressants have done untold damage. I also don’t think that depression is all that complicated… The worse somebodies life is the more likely they will become depressed. The longer they are depressed the harder it is to remedy it and the more likely it is that the depression will result in suicide. The best way to combat depression and thus suicide is to make peoples lives better. Obviously the opposite applies as well, and that’s what we’re currently seeing.

      • vendetta 10.2.1

        Agree with most of what you say – Just splitting hairs, really but I just don’t buy into the attitude re drug companies that ‘they just put any old chemical garbage into a pill and sell it to people cuz they’re bad’. I think their products are the best they can currently do, and the best we currently have. I also think they should be subject to more laws and close scrutiny, for the reasons you cite. Possibly some should not be on the market.

        I don’t agree that depression isn’t complicated though. Why do some people come through horrific life events unscathed, while others suffer what seem minor setbacks and spiral downwards? Why do some with seemingly wonderful lives get depression? Look at John Kirwan. And why do some respond to medication really well, and others don’t?

        A cohesive community can only ever be a good thing. But a person having bad living circumstances is only one piece of the puzzle, and also tied into the confusion around being sad about one’s life circumstances as a normal response vs being clinically depressed and barely functioning.

        • thejackal

          Personally I would classify the drug companies that knowingly put dangerous medication onto the market as bad! Although that would seem an over-simplification.

          Like everything about the human condition, there are a few anomalies to do with depression. You can say that under certain circumstances some people can handle a situation while others cannot. There are many debatable reasons for that difference. However the underlying fact of the matter is that somebody who can’t pay their bills, eats cheap and nasty food, lives in a crappy house and barely manages to maintain themselves is far more likely to be depressed than somebody with a good job who can live in a good area and has friendships and relationships in part because of expendable funds. To think otherwise is certifiable.

          • vendetta

            Thank you for your comments and links this evening thejackal. Possibly the first time I have come away from a blog feeling better informed, particularly around this topic. Lots to think about.

            • thejackal

              You’re welcome vendetta. I’m glad you feel better informed instead of insulted by some of my comments. That in itself is unusual in terms of debating from different positions.

              • vendetta

                Might have been a little insulted by ‘certifiable 😉

                I suppose the differences that could potentially be made by improving society are a facet that I hadn’t considered much, my interests and efforts have always been concentrated around what can be done to help those already depressed on an individual level.

  11. Colonial Viper 11

    Using anti-depressants to keep stressed out, shell shocked US troops on active duty

    Just gets scarier and scarier. Especially knowing that a lot of these troops are from poorer neighbourhoods anyway.


    • Bill 11.1

      From your link

      “Nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 took psychotropic drugs — overwhelmingly, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft.”

      Oops. Working well then?

  12. We are destroying our children’s futures before they have a chance to realize their potential:

    • LynW 12.1

      National can only do this if New Zealand voters enable them. This election is a crossroads… the damage caused by an asset selling 2nd term National govt will be irreversible. Wake up New Zealand!

  13. hellonearthis 13

    Has the report been released, if so where?

    • thejackal 13.1

      It’s on the SPINZ website. I’ve linked to the DOC at comment 1.1.1

      • R 13.1.1

        Interestingly the Coroner’s release does not appear, yet, on their Courts website http://www.justice.govt.nz/courts/coroners-court/
        It was the same last year when he released such stats, they still appear only on The Press website in the Hidden tragedy series.
        MOH have their own official stats, with a time lag, at http://www.moh.govt.nz/suicideprevention
        The Coroner’s actions are embarrassing and frustrating to MOH as they confuse an already complicated picture. Good yes that recent data is out, but unlike, the MOH stats, there is little in depth analysis, and the stats are provisional. Moreover MOH data covers calendar years whereas coronial data is financial years.
        The bad news is that suicide rates are not improving. Look to Australia, where investment in mental health is big, and big on the political agendas of both major parties.

        • thejackal

          Thanks for that info R. Unfortunately cohesive statistical information and analysis is not only missing from suicide data. Up to date statistical information for nearly every aspect in New Zealand doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. I believe it’s that way because if the information was more widely and easily available, people would be properly informed, and this would go against the current governments interests. Uninformed people are easier to lie to and control.

  14. MrSmith 14

    For me a simple a question from a doctor would be a great start something like, ‘Is there anything else thats bothering you anything at all ?’ How many times do we sit there and suffer in silence. A burden shared is a burden halved comes to mind.
    I’m not championing the handing out of drugs here and am personally against this policy and agree with what Bill had to say on this subject, I think the black days as I like to call them are just part of living, I understand this now but when I was young they where very scary indeed, but I also understand that there isn’t a one solution that fits all.

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  • Further measures to support businesses
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  • Government seeks infrastructure projects
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  • New Zealand defence personnel conclude mission at Taji
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  • State of National Emergency extended
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