Lets have a conversation about saving lives!

I was recently speaking to a friend about issues around mental health, and the impact to the individual, families and communities. Somehow the conversation drifted to the topic of suicide and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

My friend said to me “I truly believe that people who take their own lives are so selfish, there is no problem in the world that equates to ending your life”. As I sat there listening to this friend narrate the story of people she knows who have taken their own life, who she perceives as “ungrateful” and “going to hell” – passing judgement - I could feel the urge to immediately stop the conversation as it was becoming too “uncomfortable”.

I kept asking myself questions - How can I change the perception of people like her who believe suicide and suicidal thoughts and behaviours are an abomination? That suicide is simply unforgivable?

Unfortunately, her perception of suicide is very common. There is already existing stigma around people who occasionally struggle with everyday life due to various mental health issues and other social factors. There are good days and bad days, but some days are much, much worse.

When it comes to suicidality many people suffer in silence because of the “shame” of admitting to themselves and others around them that they feel like “life is not worth living”. That they may get called “selfish” “uncaring” and all other names. They carry the guilt of feeling how they feel, increasingly feeling isolated from the “accepted community judgement and perceptions”.

People who think about suicide are in pain, a silent pain that feels like a bottomless pit, it has no end and can be all too consuming and debilitating. To them it is not necessarily wanting to end their own life, it is more about wanting the pain they feel to stop.

This is how I explained it to my friend during our long conversation, and when she said to me “But how do you know this? How do you know it is emotional pain they feel?” I said to her “It is because I have known that pain”. She looked at me with almost unbelieving eyes – “but you are one of the strongest people I know, how, why…..”. She had no more words at that moment.

You see, there is no such thing as a “typical” sufferer, and those who do feel these thoughts are often very adept at hiding it even from their closest friends and colleagues – which is why it can come across as a seismic shock when someone within our circle of contacts succumbs to their internal demons.

I am grateful for the conversation like the one I had with my friend and; over the course of years, many others; because conversations such as this can help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Conversations such as this can change perception and conversations like this can help build understanding and compassion.

Conversations like this can help save a life.

How can we stem the tide of this preventable death by suicide if we are unable to talk about it? As for me, this is a conversation that must be heard!

Here are some facts about this suicide we should all be aware of:

  • According to Australian Bureau of Statisticsdata on suicide deaths in Australia, over 3,000 people died by suicide in 2015. That equates to around 8 people who tragically take their own live in Australia every single day.

  • Over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt every year

  • Around 400,000 Australians experience suicidal thoughts every year

  • Around 35,000 Australians are admitted to hospital for suicide-related injuries every year

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

  • Many people who die by suicide have experienced a mental illness.

  • Often people who are considering suicide are dealing with a combination of poor mental health and difficult life events.

Individual and community’s perception of suicidal behaviour can play an important role in preventing suicide or the degree to which suicidal behaviour is disguised. The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder. It is critical that we must learn how to have the conversation about suicide and how to safely support someone thinking about suicide.

To tie in with the National R U OK Day on Thursday September 14 - which inspires and empowers everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and to support anyone struggling with life by starting the conversation around mental health – I am hosting “The MHFA for Suicidal Person”. This will provide you with practical skills and knowledge about how to safely support when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours and allows you to practice these skills in a safe environment.

You will learn:

·        Understanding accurate information about suicide in the Australian context.

·        How to identify signs and risk of suicide

·        First aid guidelines of how to help when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours

·        Practicing these skills in a safe environment.

MHFA for the Suicidal Person Course is not a postvention course and is not recommended for individuals recently bereaved by suicide. The MHFA for the Suicidal Person Course is not a therapy course but will help you to learn more about suicide prevention and how to have the conversation that can save a life as well as where to get help and support.

Course Format:

  • This is a 4-hour face to face course to be held on Thursday 14 September 2017 from 1pm to 5pm.

Please Note: We run this course in small group numbers which allows creation of a safe and comfortable space for participants and allows us to provide support and care needed. Reserve your space now.

Pricing: $99 (incl. GST) per person        

Course participants receive a Handbook to keep and receive a digital Certificate of Completion when you submit online feedback.

Places are limited. For registration or more information, please contact us on 0411 330 382 or send us email to sharon@psychedsolutions.com.au

Completion of this course does not accredit you to become Mental Health First Aider - you need to complete the 12 HR Standard Mental Health First Aid Course if you want to be accredited as a Mental Health First Aider.

If interested in the accredited 12 Hr Mental Health First Aid Course – our upcoming public course is on Friday 10 November 2017 and Saturday 11 November 2017. Spaces are limited so please reserve your booking here.

The Survival Spirit : I am a Breast Cancer Survivor - By B.K.S Orapeleng

October is Australia’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity for us all to focus on breast cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community. Like many families around the world, breast cancer has impacted my family. 

It was in October 2010 when I received the horrible news that no daughter should receive. It was about my mother Betty’s diagnosis of breast cancer. This diagnosis came as a huge blow to my mother who was at that time supporting her sister Mmeisi through her recent diagnosis of breast cancer. My mother is a pillar of strength in our family and to witness and to experience her pain and despair throughout her recovery journey from a breast cancer diagnosis has been both inspirational and heart breaking.

In March 2013 we experienced a terrible loss of Mmeisi, my mother’s sister. I was there in the last week of her life, I held her hand, I experienced her pain, I fought with her and  for her but in the end, the battle with cancer was lost. She was a mother of five, with the youngest only five years old. A lot can be said about the public health system in Botswana that I believe failed her, that failed us, that failed her children but anger will not bring her back. I now focus my energies in creating awareness of breast cancer and talking about the importance of early detection and treatment and fundraising for breast cancer research. 

As a daughter of a mother who is a breast cancer survivor and a very strong family history of breast cancer, I have been put in the basket of the "high risk" category, which means every 6 months I go through the rigorous breast cancer examination to rule out anything sinister. Every 6 months I sit by the waiting room of the Wesley Breast Cancer Clinic  after all the testing waiting to hear whether I have cancer or not. It is one of the most horrid moments of my life. However, I am grateful to have access to the best health care system here in Australia and  can sleep better at night knowing the rigorous diagnostic process I undertake every 6 months will ensure that if ever anything develops, it will be detected early which increases chances of survival. Above all, having a mother with such a champion heart and strength like no other makes me belief that any health changes that come my way, I will survive it. She continues to pave a way for us and we draw on her "survival spirit".  

As we conclude this breast cancer awareness month of October, I like to share with you in her own words, my mother's "Survival Spirit". May it reach you and inspire you!

The Survival Spirit: I am a Breast Cancer Survivor - By Betty Orapeleng

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 was like a hurricane in my life. From the moment I got the news, to the ongoing tests and treatments, it was a whirlwind through the medical system, I was scared, anxious, stressed and insomniac. When the dust settled, I found myself in the middle of limbo land. I tried to get back to the swing of things and move on, well the rest of my life was trying to find a way to a new normal. I needed to figure out what I can do in my everyday life to reduce the risk of ever seeing that cancer again. To look at my life and say “What was going on in my life before my diagnosis that may have played a role in putting me at risk? Was my life full of stress and hurt? Was I overweight? Was I eating all the wrong stuff…… I needed to know what I did that I needed to change because God knows I don’t want this to happen again.

While there likely isn’t one thing that you did to cause the cancer, there are things you can do to live your healthy life moving forward – as a Survivor. Once your doctor tells you that you have breast cancer – you can’t hear anything else…….. a powerful statement – “You have breast cancer” – your life changes with a snap of a finger. When I came to my normal senses, I began to have a unique blend of insight as to how best I could maintain wellness again beyond breast cancer….The Spirit of Survival strengthened. I always knew that healing is God’s will. So I started to say “why this wrestling” then the ceasefire state in my body began to develop. Cancer and I, have established a truce state in my body where we co-exist. I learned new ways of handling predicaments and tribulations, understanding that God may permit problems you are facing in life for the benefit they might bring such as to direct you (Proverbs 20vs 30), inspect you (James 1vs 2-3), correct you (Psalm 119vs 71-72), protect you (Genesis 50vs20), and perfect you (Romans 5vs 3-4).

I was intrigued and inspired by one article from one doctor who compares cancer to weeds as it crowds out good crops and plants. It comes as a result of unhealthy soil that compromised by stress, robbed of nutrients, contaminated by chemicals plus its further strained by negative life style habits. We should be evaluating multiple areas of our lives; quality of sleep, stress factors, food intake, weight and amount of exercise……………the root causes that may have contributed to the development of cancer in each individual.

In view of all these experiences, I looked inside myself for strength, knowing that Greater one lives in me, in every cell of my blood, in every bone of my body and in every fiber of my being. There are always some flat and stormy days, and that is okay…I always say to myself….IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL. Thanking my strong family support, -  my children, my husband and siblings, as they are a very strong, sound support structure – having people you can talk to, who understand what it is like living with a monster, relieves the burden of feeling alone. Sharing with others in a similar position also helps nip out the thorn that has deepened into your heart, soul and body. Taking responsibility for, and owning your physical and emotional wellbeing is hugely liberating and empowering. With God All things are possible The word of God in Mark 11:22 “ Jesus said to them, Believe in God” AMEN…………

Watch Betty's story here on Youtube: Click Here

Are You a Character Builder or Character Destroyer?

I recently had to confront a very painful past, a past that I thought was so buried safe under layers of self-preservation and sanity, a past that I had chosen to let go, or so I thought! Somehow this person had found a shovel and had begun to dig so deep until exposing the layers and revealing what I thought was a healed wound. Immediately the scab was removed, it left a wound so raw that it felt like it had been bursting to come up in the open for a long time. ‘How dare she?’ like a wounded lion I roared!

You see some things just hurt beyond measure, a pain so deep you feel like you are falling into a bottomless pit. The worst of it all is when you thought you have managed to climb out of the hole then someone takes the liberty to shove you right back in. Human beings are incredibly capable of deep emotions and feelings of empathy, love for one another, courage, peace etc. The emotions that have sustained us for generations and made us evolve into one of the most intelligent species there is. However this capacity has also revealed ability to hurt, to hate, to destroy. Experiencing this dark side of human capacity recently left me completely drained, confused, angry. I was confronted with the questions I had laboured for years throughout my university studies in psychology and behaviour management to answer; Why do people behave the way they do?

You may say to me, being hurt is part of life. But does that mean it is something we have to inflict on others or absorb submissively when it is maliciously directed our way? Something we need to tolerate? I don’t think so. Who gives anyone the right to take away the joyous feelings and peace of another? One thing that was certain about this terrible experience was that it reminded me of my capacity to let the wounds heal and the incredible ability to forgive the hurt of the past. Those who know me well would have heard me using the phrase ‘Turning Wounds into Wisdom’. There is nothing powerful than using the experience of the past and deciding to change your today and your tomorrow. Some things happen to us when we least expect them, it is how we choose to deal with them that determines our character.

The advent of social media has forever changed our lives and the way we engage with others and whilst so many positives have come from this revolution, it has also brought out the very worst in some of us. Gossip and bullying has to an extent always been part of a dark undercurrent of society but nowadays, faceless trolls spew poisonous vitriol to complete strangers and yes sometimes ‘friends’ and colleagues also. All under the cover of anonymity - a sign they have become oblivious it seems to the hurt they cause or perhaps even worse, that they have become ‘disconnected’ from real society and have lost the very essence of humanity – compassion, empathy, friendship, nurturing and supporting.

So today my friends, I ask you this question, are you a character builder or a character destroyer?

Changing Perceptions and Removing the Stigma about Mental Illness

Mental health issues are among the leading causes of disability across the globe. Many people do not associate mental illness with disability however moderate to severe mental health issues can be as disabling as physical disability. Mental health issues do not discriminate, anyone can develop mental illness at some point in their lives. In Australia 1 in 5 people will be diagnosed with a common mental health issue in any given year. The risk factors are wide and varied. The stigma associated with mental illness and the negative and discriminatory attitudes can have devastating impact on the person struggling with the illness. Community awareness about mental health issues is very important to help change perceptions and remove the stigma.

This week (04-10 October, 2015) is the National Mental Health Week held to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10 October, 2015. These national events are an opportunity to create awareness around mental health and well being and equip people with the right information.

Connect with you local mental health organisations to participate in a number of events planned for this week.

Media is  important in changing perceptions and removing stigma about mental illness. Watch out for ABC TV and radio's Mental As programs during this national mental health week. From comedy, to documentaries, Q and A, and entertainment, ABC is leading to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness and start the conversation. Find out more here.

Mental Health Australia  is running a campaign aimed at acknowledging your role in looking after your own mental health and well being. The 'Mental Health Begins With Me' campaign is about making a mental health promise to yourself then sharing it with your family, friends and colleagues. Visit campaign website here to make your mental health promise.

Lets join together and change perceptions around mental health issues and urge services to appropriately and effectively support people with mental health issues.

If you live in Australia and are you need someone to talk to - call one of the following numbers:

Lifeline - 131 114           beyondblue - 1300 22 4636  Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800

Suicide Call Back Service -1300 659 467

Translating and Interpretation Service (TIS National) - 131 450