Warning: This blog contains material about suicide which may be triggering to some readers.
“Suicide” is one of the last remaining taboo topics in an age when nothing no longer seem off limits. Not many want to openly talk about it ‘just in case it may put thoughts of suicide in people’s mind’ they may say. However the reality is that suicide touches the lives of many people and has devastating impact on family, friends, colleagues and community. Many people take their own lives every day in Australia and around the world. In 2013, about 6 people died by suicide every day around Australia, that is around 2,500 people who took their own lives. Approximately 75% of those who died by suicide were males and 25% females in 2013. Women are however 4 times more likely to attempt suicide with hospital data for the 2008-2009 financial year indicating that 62% of those who were hospitalised due to self-harm were women.
These statistics are incredibly sobering and highlights the need to break down stigma attached to this taboo subject. Suicide and suicidal ideation is a reality for many people every single day. Just recently on social media (Facebook) I have been witnessing a number of viral posts about suicide, one of them that struck the cord with me is this one below;
“Many people think that a suicide attempt is a selfish move because the person just does not care about the people left behind. I can tell you that when a person gets to that point, they truly believe that their loved ones will be much better off with them gone. This is mental illness not selfishness. TRUTH: Depression is a terrible disease and seems relentless. A lot of us have been close to that edge, or dealt with family members in a crisis, and some have lost friends and loved ones. Let's look out for each other and stop sweeping mental illness under the rug. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. Hope to see this on the walls of all my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy and paste this one, no sharing. Thank you” (Author Unknown)
I have seen many friends sharing this above statement on their walls. This highlights the power of social media in breaking down the walls on these sensitive topics such as suicide and mental illness. A very welcomed change! However there are still a number of myths associated with suicide and the discussion around it can quickly get hijacked by those who are misinformed about the topic which can have devastating impact on those bereaved by suicide. The viral post above touches on one of the most common myths associated with suicide which labels victim of suicide as “selfish, not caring etc.” This labeling of the person who has died by suicide as selfish or not caring fails to take to account the fact that research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression, with 90% of the people who die by suicide having an existing mental illness or substance abuse problem at the time of their death.
There are many more myths about suicide, here are some of the most common:
Myth: People who talk about suicide don’t actually do it
Fact: Many people who complete the act of suicide spend considerable time prior to the act, talking about it
Myth: Asking a person who is suicidal whether they are thinking of taking their own life will make them do it
Fact: By giving the person who is suicidal permission to discuss their feelings, is often the best opportunity to make them aware that somebody cares about their life and give them hope for life.
Myth: Only certain types of people commit suicide
Fact: Suicidal thoughts and actions can affect anyone from any socio-economic group, religious or racial background or age
Myth: Suicidal people want to die
Fact: People who are suicidal just want to end the intense emotional and/or physical pain they are experiencing
This clearly highlights the need for more public awareness about suicide. We need to have the capacity to identify signs of symptoms of a developing mental health issue such as depression and be able to respond to a crisis situation such as someone thinking of suicide. How do you appropriately provide support needed for someone who finds the courage to tell you that they are thinking of taking their own life? How do you give someone hope for life who life has ran them into a rut and they see taking their own lives as the only way to make the hurt stop? How do you support those who are left bereaved by suicide?
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is important to talk about it so we can understand how to prevent it.
Join us at our next Mental Health First Training on the 6th – 7th November, 2015 in Brisbane as we discuss about what you can do to support someone in a crisis situation such as having suicidal thoughts and behaviours as well as understand the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and what you can do to help. Help us break the stigma associated with mental health illness so we are able to help ourselves, families, colleagues and community.
This could be one of the most important decisions you may ever undertake, to learn an important life skill that will not only help you, but more importantly someone in need close to you.
I look forward to seeing you at the training!
If this topic has caused any concerns for you or someone you know, please call the following helplines
Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Looking for support and advice, call beyond blue - 1300 22 4636
Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) - 131 450