There is an incredibly horrific pandemic that is taking hold of Australians. It affects the old, the young, the men, the women and the children.
It doesn’t discriminate. It affects the wealthy, the poor, the average. It takes the powerful, the weak and the popular.
It is rising. It is permanent and as a nation we need to stand side by side to find out how we can significantly lower the rates of suicide in Australia.
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a 27 year old man. He ran his own successful business, had parents who adored him, a girlfriend who loved him and a best mate who found him hanging from a noose in his shed.
There was a little girl with dark hair and chocolate skin. She was 10 years old and after experiencing an overwhelming sense of hopelessness made the choice to end her life and sever any chance of future happiness.
A 32 year old mother of three takes her own life just four months after her littlest baby is born. Leaving a heartbroken husband and three young girls without a mother.
A brave, courageous 37 year old man recently returned home from active duty defending his country and due to the torment he continued to live with every day took his life with a single bullet.
The suicide rate in Australia is appalling and according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics there has been a significant rise in death by suicide in young women. A rise which means we are sitting terrifyingly at a a 13 year high.
Let me break this down for you, Australia’s current suicide rate is sitting at around 12 per 100,000 people.
Our men that surround us, you know the burly, strong, masculine men are crumbling around us. Men make up three-quarters of people who commit suicide and this is the scariest part, suicide remains the main cause of death for young people in Australia.
Let me repeat that loud and clear.
It isn’t car crashes or drugs. It’s not coward punches or risky behaviour. Nor is it anything else you see splashed across the nightly news. It is a conscious decision to end their own life. A decision to save themselves from the anguish of a self-formed reality of hopelessness that they live in. This is incredibly heartbreaking.
So what can we do? We need to identify why these people are feeling so hopeless. We need to not let anymore beautiful young people slip through the net.
Black Dog Institute director and chief scientist Helen Christensen said a new approach was needed to drive down suicide rates “if we want to be really serious about saving lives, we need to understand why people become suicidal and identify how we can best tackle these issues before they reach crisis point, if we look to the research evidence from here and overseas, there are clear strategies that have been proven to reduce suicide risk. Only some of these are currently in use in Australia, and implementation tends to be scattered and disproportionate to their impact.”
So what are these strategies?
We need to acknowledge, spread and share the word that suicide is everyone’s business. Every single one of us has an obligation to speak more openly about depression, hopelessness and sadness. We need to look around us and stare deeply into those around us to see even the most minute cries for help. So I want you to turn up, call and simply ask the question “Are you okay?”.
You need to listen to those around you. Like really, deeply listen. Actively.
Be proactive, don’t just say “call me if you need anything” that is way too vague. You call them.
We need to escalate the pressure placed on our government to increase early intervention through our medical teams. This includes increasing support for our troops who return home from combat.
We need more money to research the groups of the population who are more at risk. Why do people feel so helpless? It must be because there is not enough help available.
Just raise awareness. Ask the questions. Be there.
Even if today is a tough day, your past shows you have a 100% survival rate.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit its website.