Friday, March 5, 2010

Andrei The hidden male epidemic

Its interesting to me that there has been a lot of fiddling with road rules in an attempt to further reduce the annual death toll on a roads but there is a bigger cause of premature death in New Zealand that nobody talks about, except perhaps in hushed tones.

And that is suicide. The suicide figures for 2007 are four hundred and eighty three, 70% of whom are male.

Compare that with the road toll for 2007 - four hundred and twenty two.

I find it a little curious that the Government is happy to introduce new rules, almost on a daily basis in fact, that will do little to nothing to reduce the road toll, bombard us with expensive advertising campaigns about cell phones in cars and not driving too fast and so forth.

Meanwhile this other thing, suicide goes unnoticed.

Anyone got any theories as to why?

6 comment(s):

malcolm said...

Road accidents are readily preventable whereas suicide is varied and complex.

macdoctor said...

That's a facile answer, Malcolm. Road accidents are not "readily preventable" and road deaths even less so. As Andrei points out in his post, the current bevy of new rules is likely to do squat to the road toll.

Suicide stats do not make politically hot news (individual suicides make the newspapers but there is no political momentum behind them). Consequently, government spending on suicide prevention is desultory and usually ineffective. It is debatable whether the government can make a difference in either set of mortality statistics anyway, but it certainly won't with the sparse prevention programs currently in place.

I estimate you could probably prevent at least 50 suicides a year if you clamped down vigorously on bullying in schools. That would be a simple change in the teaching culture, particularly amongst principals.

malcolm said...

Road accidents are readily preventable. If there was a fatal accident on SHW 1 I'm sure we could both draw up a shortlist of the probable causes: dickhead driving, drunk driving, inexperienced driving going too fast etc. If the police were empowered to make judgements on what they considered to be dangerous drivers and people were banded accordingly then I think the road toll could be significantly reduced. We can all recognise dangerous drivers when we see them.

I wasn't commenting on the law changes although I suspect the change to the give way rule will reduce intersection smashes but I'm guessing these are mostly non-fatal.

Suicide is a much harder problem. Of the two suicides that I know directly about neither the family or friends had any inkling that the person would consider such an action.

I think Andrei was trying to make the point that governments are somehow responsible for creating a society where suicide has become common. He didn't make the point directly but I think that was what he was hinting at.

I don't know much about bullying in schools but I'm guessing that it's a difficult problem as it can also take place outside the school.

ZenTiger said...

I thought Andrei was merely pointing out that the government spends a lot of money in one area to prevent deaths, and very little in another, even though the death toll is similar.

Your suggestion is that this is because it's easier with roading, and harder with suicide is valid, but just because things are hard doesn't mean we don't try.

Although even then, I don't think Andrei said anything about the government being responsible for preventing suicide, just that they feel completely justified continuing to throw money and resources into one area, perhaps ad infinitum, because they can.

Slightly related: There were indeed several road deaths over several years on SH1 - just looking at Centennial Highway in particular (7 in one year), and we did draw up reasons on why and it was obvious the road needed a median barrier. It finally got one a couple of years ago and no accidents since.

There gets to be a point where no matter how many rules and regulations we add to roading, simply making the roads safer is the best way forward - like suicide, you cannot anticipate every precise reason for loss of control of a vehicle, so you make the infrastructure safer.

MacDoctor's comments on bullying underscore that very well, and makes the whole "unpreventable" suicide debate suddenly very preventable, at least for some lives.

ZenTiger said...

Correction - Accidents have continued to happen on that stretch but no fatalities.

leftrightout said...

I suspect that the NZ stats would also be similar to Aus where a large proportion of single vehicle smashes on country roads, such as tree smashes in to car, are in fact young male suicides.

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