The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt. Sadly, over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt ever year and more than 3,000 Australians died by suicide in 2017 (1). The tragic ripple effect means that there are many, many more people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has tried to take his or her own life, as well as those struggling to manage suicidal ideation.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44 years of age. (2)

Suicidal thoughts are complex and no one knows exactly what works to stop another tragedy. However, we do know that certain actions can make a difference and we know that if we put a wide range of these actions in place we have a better chance of preventing suicides and counter the isolation so often felt. Now more than ever it’s important that we all play a part in supporting those struggling with their mental health.

Every year on September 10 we observe World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. Our latest Unleash the Beast Podcast has brought together Lifeline Darling Downs' staff members Michelle Wiersma, Lib McNaughton, Cath Leask and Darren Tomlinson to discuss suicide prevention and how we can all play a part in supporting those struggling with their mental health. All of our Unleash the Beast guests in this podcast have extensive experience in working with and supporting clients, family and friends through tough times and suicidal thoughts.

Listen to the podcast now on Whooshkaa or your favourite streaming service.

Our guests explore and discuss the complex causes of suicide, explaining that some of the factors which may contribute to suicide include:

  • stressful life events
  • trauma
  • mental illness
  • physical illness
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • poor living circumstances

Our guests also discuss the protective factors that make us more resilient and can reduce suicidal behaviour, such as:

  • supportive social relationships
  • a sense of control
  • a sense of purpose
  • family harmony
  • effective help-seeking
  • positive connections to good health services available

Our speakers help us understand that we can all help. They share a number of key insights discussing how everyone can help those who are walking through their darkest moments...

1. Making ourselves available to others.

One the best ways we can support others is by making ourselves available and being prepared to ask the question “Are you ok?”. Our guests explain that it is important that before asking we need to be in a good place ourselves. However, we’re encouraged, not to be afraid to ask. Those who are struggling are more likely to be relieved than offended when we do. 

“If we don’t ask and we don’t know, we leave the person alone with the suicidal thoughts” Cath Leask

2. Making ourselves a safe place for others.

One of the hardest things to do when trying to support others is to simply listen. So often we are thinking about what we should say, what we shouldn’t say and trying to ‘do the right thing’ that we forget to simply care for the person right in front of us. Our guests encourage us to practice how to listen and feedback what we have heard to those sharing with us. Our guests explain the importance of suspending our judgements and putting aside our beliefs and morals while we are listening to people who are contemplating suicide. We’re reminded that in these moments, it is not about us.

3. Making time to check in on our friends, family and colleagues.

Life is busy and we all have full calendars, work and family commitments. However, it is important that we make time to check in with our loved ones and those we’re close with to see how they are doing. In doing so we are communicating to those around us that there is someone available to them if they are not doing well.

Our guests remind us that suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone and it is vital that those experiencing this know that they are not alone. Our role is to invite those struggling to share their thoughts and their concerns and when they can’t see any other option to get out of their situation, connect them back to life.

Our guests caution us to not act as professional counsellors but rather, to be a friend and simply help those who are struggling to find the help they need to stay safe.

“You don’t have to know all the answers just stay connected with them.” - Darren Tomlinson

Listen to the podcast now on Whooshkaa or your favorite streaming service.

There are many resources available to those who are looking for support and those who want to support others. You can find some at these following locations to help you in your journey:

Lifeline Australia

Black Dog Institue

Beyond Blue

R U OK?

If you or someone you know is struggling…you’re not on your own - reach out and talk to a trusted person or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Special thanks to Harvey Norman Toowoomba for sponsoring this episode of Unleash the Beast.

References

  1. ‘Causes of Death’, 26 Sep 2018, Australian Bureau of Statistics, http://www.abs.gov.au/Causes-of-Death
  2. ‘Causes of Death’, 27 Sep 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics, http://www.abs.gov.au/Causes-of-Death