Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Zealand Prozac Case File - Mother On A Mission - Part IV of IV

Maria Bradshaw, a mother in torment.


PART I - New Zealand Prozac Case File - Toran Henry

PART II - New Zealand Prozac Case File - The Loss

PART III - New Zealand Prozac Case File - The Inquest, The Suppression Revealed

Today, 20th March 2011, marks the third anniversary of Toran Henry's death, fitting then that this final post should highlight the efforts of his mother, Maria Bradshaw.

Beaten black and blue by the injustice of a coroner's recommendations, haunted by the failure of the medical profession who "looked after" Toran's welfare and aghast at the behaviour of Toran's school, Maria goes about her business with the same passion and desire she had when she was in full time employment.

A lot has to be said about any human being who can put up with barriers thrown in their direction. Maria has lost her job, her car and her house, the latter two being sold to pay solicitor's fees during the inquest of her son Toran, a staggering $70,000.

Maria has stared adversity in the face and gave it a two fingered salute, she refuses to be beaten, she stands up for what she believes in and smashes the barriers placed in her way as she strives to venture down her path to find justice.

Maria is no stranger to the media, she has appeared on countless radio shows, many TV news bulletins and has featured in many newspaper articles across New Zealand.

In August 2010 Maria, along with Deb Williams, formed the lobby group Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education & Research, or CASPER for short. The group was formed to offer support to bereaved families and also for the purpose of lobbying for legislative and policy change and challenging the information provided by government funded agency SPINZ. Deb Williams had also lost her child to suicide. Cloudy died of carbon monoxide poisoning, she was just 20.

Co-founder of CASPER, Deb Williams with her daughter, Cloudy.

Both Maria and Deb had been toying with the idea of creating such a group, their minds were made up when, on August 12th 2010, the Chief Coroner was reported as saying that given New Zealand has the most restrictive suicide reporting regime in the world and the hightest rate of youth suicide, it was time to reconsider our approach and talk more openly about suicide. Maria and Deb had been planning to launch CASPER at the end of the year but decided to do it that day.

More recently, CASPER has tried to secure a meeting with New Zealand's Associate Minister of Health and Minister of Suicide Prevention, Peter Dunne. Dunne, whose apparent favour of optimal use of medicines, has so far refused to meet with CASPER. He has, however met with pharmaceutical representatives on seven separate occasions.

Peter Dunne, New Zealand Health Minister

In fact, according to this very public document,  Dunne's initiative to develop a New Zealand medicine's strategy has been given the thumbs up by pharma giants Boehringer Ingelheim.

In a recent interview, Maria told me:

A couple of days before Cloudy's inquest which was before the Chief Coroner, we were invited to file a submission [1] on why we need more open discussion of suicide. We worked for 48 hours without sleep to summarise the international literature on suicide reporting. We argued that secrecy around suicide harms both the community and the families affected and provided the evidence that talking about suicide does not cause copycat suicides or 'suicide contagion' as claimed by our Ministry of Health.

The Coroner read our submission and, in a move unprecedented in NZ, allowed uncensored reporting of Cloudy's inquest, saying in his judgement that he was persuaded that this had more benefits than harm.

In response, Peter Dunne asked the Ministry of Health to advise the government on whether the media reporting guidelines on suicide needed updating and whether the Coroner's Act should be changed from the current situation where it mandates secrecy around suicide to a presumption in favour of open reporting. The Ministry admitted its guidelines were 11 years old and did not reflect current thinking but said open reporting is harmful and the Coroner's Act should not be changed.

Peter Dunne decided to convene a meeting to discuss the issues and we requested that we be invited to represent the views of families who have lost a loved one to suicide. He refused to let us attend and lied to us saying it was for the media only. In fact a range of stakeholders were represented.

Casper is based on a belief, supported by evidence, that NZ's approach to suicide prevention actually increaes rather than decreases suicide. Our country has twice the rate of youth suicide as the US and Australia and five times the rate of the UK. We wrote to the Prime Minister asking for a meeting to discuss the evidence that we need to radically change the way we approach suicide prevention. He advised he was too busy and that we should meet with Dunne.

We want to meet with Dunne to discuss the current issue around media reporting of suicide but also a range of other issues. Our suicide rate is 50% higher than our rate of deaths from road traffic crashes. 10% of the deaths of 10 year olds in NZ are suicides and more young people die from suicide in this country than from all medical causes combined. We think this is a health crisis and one which could be prevented if the government would look at the evidence and stop allowing the agendas of a few individuals who have made careers and large incomes from being the only people allowed to discuss suicide and provide advice to government, to prevail.

It's plain to see that some politicians in New Zealand are no better than some of the scum-sucking dregs of society we have here in the UK. It would appear that Dunne has his tongue firmly down the backside of the pharmaceutical industry and forgets about the people that put him into power, his constituents.

Ironically, Dunne was born on 17 March, 3 days shy of the anniversary of Toran Henry's death.

I hope Maria and Deb can convince Dunne to meet with them to discuss their concerns. Having spent a few days with Maria in Los Angeles earlier this year, I am almost certain that she will not give up on Dunne...or anyone for that matter.

Maria and Deb have taken CASPER on the road, they would like to take their lobbying into schools, alas, the New Zealand government doesn't allow suicide prevention education in schools so CASPER get in front of kids only when their parents bring them along to their presentations. They also call for a change in the legislation regarding giving families more support at inquests, the same support that is offered to criminals.

Last year the New Zealand government changed legislation and took away all financial support for families bereaved by suicide. No funeral grant, no counselling assistance, no income support. For many families, the trauma of finding their children dead renders them unable to work. There are many families who have lost their homes and incomes following a suicide. They cannot afford counselling for their surviving children and have unpaid debts as a result of funeral expenses.

I don't wish to embarrass Maria with this post but she has my utmost respect for what she has achieved in the face of adversity. Wherever she goes, be it Los Angeles, Washington or Connecticut, she teams up with like-minded  mothers, her zest for human life and her thirst for justice is a shining beacon that surrounds her.

I set out to help Maria give her son, Toran, a voice. We connected when we met, as I did with other mothers of children lost to psychiatric drugs. I hope Toran has been heard with these series of four posts.

Maria and Toran...I salute you.

Never has a song title been more apt for a warrior such a Maria Bradshaw. She's not quite ready to make nice...and why should she?