25 May 2011

Suicide reporting 'has gone too far'

3:05 pm on 25 May 2011

A University of Otago professor thinks reporting individual cases of suicide could lead to copycat behaviour.

A Palmerston North coroner has allowed details to be reported about the suicide of a Manawatu woman.

The details were published on the front page of Wellington's daily newspaper The Dominion Post on Wednesday.

Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean has been encouraging more openness in the reporting of suicide, but Professor David Fergusson told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme that putting details on the front page of newspapers has gone too far.

"There is no evidence whatsoever that doing this sort of thing will be beneficial," he said.

"There is some evidence it may be harmful and a good rule of medicine is 'first do no harm'."

The Ministry of Health says it has guidelines for reporting suicide, but these are only voluntary to follow.

It says the media have to make the final decision about reporting the details a coroner releases.