New Zealand suicide reporting laws due to change, here’s what you need to know

by Laura Walters, Stuff, 18 May 2016

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The Coroners Amendment Bill is currently being considered by Parliament. Amongst other things, it would change the way that self-inflicted deaths can be reported in the media before, during and after a coronial inquest.

Ms Walters reports on the difficult issue of how to talk about suicide in ways that help rather than harm.

In 1988, the government made it a criminal offence to report details of suspected suicides until the coroner ruled it was safe to publish details.

In 2006, despite the trend overseas to a more voluntary approach, the government tightened the law further, making it clear that the only ground on which coroners could disclose details was if they were sure public safety was not at risk.

It also banned relatives of a suicide from publishing details without the coroner’s permission.

These restrictions were borne out of the fear of suicide contagion. A body of research has found reporting specific details, especially the method of suicide, can lead to copycat suicides.

A contagion effect occurs when an already vulnerable person emulates the suicide of another person following reports or public discussion of the suicide. 

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