Today is R U OK? Day. An initiative in its 10th year which is helping to drive an open and honest conversation about suicide across our communities.
This year alone, four people connected to my family and friends have lost their battles with mental health. Each story as impactful as the previous one.
Every time you hear someone has taken their life it doesn’t get any easier, or less shocking. You may already be aware that men are at three times the risk of suicide, but did you know that it’s the leading cause of death of Australians aged 15 to 44 years?
How do we, as a collective community, start to move the dial on suicide awareness and prevention? What are the tangible actions we can use to improve people’s chances at a positive outcome? Their chances of staying with their families and loved ones to fight another day and come out the other side.
Acutely aware I’m not qualified to share evidence-based advice, I asked Heidi Sumich, clinical psychologst, about ways in which you can speak with someone you think is suffering from anxiety or depression.
Heidi said if you’re concerned about someone, ask them how they’re feeling. ‘You might say, “I’m worried about you - you’re not your usual self. How are you feeling?”. Open-ended questions invite people to talk, rather than simply answering yes or no.
‘If you don’t buy their answer, considering asking again, with warmth. “You don’t seem OK. I’m very happy to talk with you if you’re not feeling OK.” If their response does concern you, it is OK to ask directly but gently, “Are you having any thoughts about ending your life?”.’
Heidi noted that asking this question doesn’t increase the risk, but it does create an opportunity to save a life.
‘If the person is suicidal, stay with them and make a plan to get help. Tell them you are relieved, and glad they shared with you, and try to create a sense of hope that things can change. Seek advice from Lifeline, Beyond Blue or 000 if needed.’
Often we wait to have difficult conversations, putting them off for another day. Perhaps things will change without us getting involved. In fact, maybe it’s none of our business, and we should just leave it alone.
Suicide is our business. If you think someone is suffering, be brave for them and have a chat today on R U OK? Day. And if you’re struggling, speak with a friend, your doctor or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. We can’t afford to lose you.
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