Alcohol reform an opportunity missed

Auckland Now 11 sep 2012
A leading Auckland researcher in suicide prevention says the Government missed a trick when the alcohol laws passed through parliament unchanged last month.

During a webinar marking the 10th annual World Suicide Prevention Day yesterday Professor Gregory Luke Larkin, from Auckland University, discussed the preventable causes of suicide, which included alcohol and drug abuse, particularly in young people.

The US academic, relatively new to the country, said a stroll through the city in the evening made the state of play starkly obvious.

“Walking over the bodies of young people vomiting on the streets – you have to look at alcohol,” Larkin said.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean last week released annual suicide statistics that showed an increase in suicides among youths as well as Maori and Pacific Islanders nationwide.

In total last year there were 547 suicides, including one boy aged between five and nine, 11 children aged between 10 and 14 and 80 people aged 15 to 19.

Dr Annette Beautrais also spoke at yesterday’s internet-streamed presentation and highlighted the fact New Zealand’s suicide rate of 11 in every 100,000 was the highest in the English-speaking world.

Globally, more than one million people take their own lives every year and she estimated that figure would likely rise to 1.5 million before long.

Beautrais said suicide in this country was “under funded and under addressed”, which meant there were common misconceptions, such as teens being the most at risk group.

Statistics from 2010 showed it was people in the top age bracket who most frequently committed suicide but funding was often driven towards young people because it was seen as more tragic.