Suicide is a huge problem in Australia. We estimate that around 200 people per day attempt suicide. Now we don't estimate, we know that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. The most recent data we have is from 2012 and in that year 2 535 Australians died due to suicide, that is almost double those who died in road related transport deaths (1 310). It is slightly more common for males and more than double the rate in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Suicide is a huge problem in Australia!
These numbers are not here to scare you, we mention them to make the point that suicide is real, and encourage people not to think along the lines of 'Oh, that won't happen' or 'Jimmy would never'. Suicide in Australia is also on the rise so it is past time that we as a community increase awareness and take the threat more seriously.
There are things you can do to help someone who is considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts. It is not a pleasant topic but think of the alternative.
Communicate: Ask the question outright... "are you thinking about killing yourself?" and be ready to hear the answer. Many people with suicidal thoughts actually want to talk about it, quite often they want to live but end up not seeing another option and attempt or complete suicide. Your communicating openly with them could launch a recovery.
Care for them: Don't leave them alone, have an awareness of their whereabouts. Ask their permission to inform other loved ones so you can all share the load and support each other through the process. Discourage alcohol consumption - it is a depressant after all that reduces consequential thinking.
Get professional help:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Kids helpline 1800 55 1800
- Eagles RAPS Inc. 0418 417 124
Ask for a promise: Ask them to promise to call you if they are having a bad day or moment, particularly if the thoughts of suicide return. It may seem silly that someone on the verge of suicide would care about a promise, but research has shown this simple tactic does make it more likely they will seek communication.
Look after yourself also: This will obviously be a tough time for you as well as other loved ones. There is support available for you too. Don't be afraid to ask for help and to communicate with your own loved ones.
Suicide is preventable. There are signs to look out for:
- being depressed
- mood swings
- increased substance abuse (including alcohol)
- talking about feeling stuck or helpless
- talking about wanting to die
- self harm and self destructive behaviour
Always take it seriously when someone discusses or threatens suicide.
Of course showing some of these signs does not automatically mean someone is considering suicide. Many of these behaviours are dangerous and indicative of someone generally not going well and needing support.
Communication is so important and research has shown that an open, honest conversation and positive support is key to pulling someone out of a suicidal state.