Professor wrong on suicide | The Jackal

8 Sep 2013

Professor wrong on suicide

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Doctors view suicidal patients as a threat to their reputations and are more concerned with avoiding blame than treating people, a leading expert says.

Professor Roger Mulder, head of psychological medicine at Otago University, said clinicians were afraid of being blamed for suicides and were not acting in the patients' best interests.

Wow! That's a pretty gross generalization to make. I wonder what makes hime think that?

Mulder said he now believed "traditional psychiatric models of suicide prediction and prevention were not working.

"Very few psychiatric interventions have been shown to reduce the incidence of suicide," he added.

How very silly! It would be almost impossible to show when psychiatric interventions have reduced the incidence of suicide...mainly because there are no figures kept for people who have gone undiagnosed as having a mental illness who have committed suicide.

What is it with these Otago University academics anyway?

Despite a large rise in drugs prescribed and ongoing treatment for at-risk patients, suicide rates remain high.

Of course just medicating people up to the eyeballs isn't the answer. Although suicide risk is highest in depressed individuals who feel hopeless about the future, medication can in most cases only treat the symptoms, not the underlying causes of the problem.

The main failing in the current harm prevention system is a lack of holism. There is no real attempt at changing people's personal lives for the better, which invariably means more cases of self harm and suicide when patients are released back to often dysfunctional situations.

Figures released last week show there were 541 suicides in the 12 months to the end of June 2013, almost exactly the same as when records began in 2007.

According to this document from the Ministry of Health (PDF) that shows provisional suicide numbers, a total of 483 people died by suicide in 2007, which means there were 58 more deaths by suicide in the year to June 2013. The suicide rate per 100,000 population has also increased from 11 to 12.

It would be helpful if the Herald could at least get these basic facts right and you've got to wonder why they haven't? Clearly there are more suicides each year since National gained power, mainly because people's lives have become even more difficult.

The only real way to reduce New Zealand's terribly high suicide rate is to reduce poverty and hardship, which National doesn't look likely to do anytime soon.