Aus­tralia’s ris­ing sui­cide rate: how can we re­verse the statis­tics?

Dubbo Photo News - - News Extra - By LY­DIA PEDRANA

THERE is more me­dia cov­er­age, aware­ness cam­paigns, re­sources and or­gan­i­sa­tions at­tempt­ing to tackle the com­plex topic of men­tal health than ever be­fore, but our sui­cide rate is ris­ing.

Aus­tralia’s rate is cur­rently sit­ting at 12.9 per 100,000 which is above the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s global aver­age.

While the ques­tion of ‘why’ is al­most im­pos­si­ble to an­swer, lo­cal men­tal health or­gan­i­sa­tions are do­ing their best to pin­point and pre­vent po­ten­tial rea­sons be­hind the in­creas­ing statis­tic.

Life­line Cen­tral West CEO Stephanie Robin­son be­lieves the ris­ing rates are the re­sult of a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

“Though we are more ‘con­nected’ than ever be­fore as a so­ci­ety, we see a lot of dis­con­nect and so­cial iso­la­tion,” she told

“Males in par­tic­u­lar do not of­ten have the same sup­port and con­nec­tions and of­ten with­draw rather than talk or seek help.”

Ms Robin­son also said peo­ple need to un­der­stand that not ev­ery­one who dies by sui­cide has a men­tal health is­sue.

“We all have dif­fer­ent lev­els of re­silience, cop­ing mech­a­nisms and sup­port net­works as well as ac­cess to ser­vices.”

Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Loss And Grief CEO and Ed­u­ca­tor, Trudy Han­son, has no doubt the un­prece­dented dry spell in re­gional ar­eas has been a fac­tor too.

“Drought is hav­ing an im­pact and as small towns are los­ing ser­vices and ac­cess to men­tal health fa­cil­i­ties, it has be­come prob­lem­atic,” she said.

Ms Han­son also said that although “so­ci­ety is im­prov­ing, there is still a stigma around men­tal health”.

Then comes the ques­tion of how to re­verse this wor­ry­ingly high rate.

With NALAG hold­ing it’s Walk To­wards Hope event for sui­cide prevention and aware­ness in Dubbo last week­end, and World Sui­cide Prevention Day (Tues­day) and R U OK Day (to­day) both fall­ing this week, lo­cal men­tal health ex­perts are plead­ing with the com­mu­nity to look out for one an­other and be aware of the signs which might sug­gest some­one is strug­gling.

Ms Robin­son said ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity in at­tempt­ing to re­verse the ris­ing sui­cide statis­tics.

“So of­ten the mes­sage is for those in dis­tress to reach out and con­nect with help, but I would like to see the mes­sage be that it is all of the pop­u­la­tion’s concern, and that each and ev­ery one of us should be trained in sui­cide prevention. (Ev­ery­one should know) how to con­fi­dently re­spond so that peo­ple don’t miss, dismiss or avoid sit­u­a­tions that just may save a life,” she said.

“They (vic­tims of sui­cide) of­ten need those that are in their lives to pick up on some of these signs and lead them to help.”

On top of ed­u­ca­tion, Ms Robin­son would like to see the govern­ment in­vest in Life­line’s text ser­vice af­ter a trial re­vealed that 43 per cent of peo­ple who used the ser­vice would not have called the 13 11 14 phone ser­vice, in­stead pre­fer­ring to SMS.

Headspace Dubbo is also ad­vo­cat­ing for in­creased aware­ness, con­ced­ing that de­spite the many re­sources avail­able, a lot of peo­ple don’t know where to turn.

“The more peo­ple who un­der­stand what it is, what the signs are and where to turn to for sup­port, or (where to get help) to sup­port a friend or loved one, the more we can work to­gether to cre­ate men­tally well com­mu­ni­ties,” Headspace Com­mu­nity and Youth En­gage­ment Co­or­di­na­tor, Amy Mines, said.

“A lot of it comes down to ed­u­ca­tion, some­thing that needs to be taught in school from an early age.”

Headspace is con­stantly work­ing on ways it can im­merse it­self within dif­fer­ent pockets of the com­mu­nity to pro­mote its work and ser­vices.

“We work closely with a lot of lo­cal busi­nesses to help them sup­port their staff,” Ms Mines said.

“We also visit a large num­ber of schools in our re­gion to sup­port the stu­dents and teach­ers around men­tal health aware­ness and give tips for keep­ing a healthy headspace. “

In re­cent years, men­tal health top­ics have be­come more freely re­ported in main­stream me­dia and in­cluded in movies and TV shows.

All me­dia are sub­ject to strict re­port­ing guide­lines when it comes to men­tal health, and while lead­ers in the space feel in­creased cov­er­age is pos­i­tive, they stress the im­por­tance of stay­ing within the set pa­ram­e­ters.

Ms Robin­son said me­dia re­ports should fo­cus on hope and con­nec­tion and be de­liv­ered with sen­si­tiv­ity and integrity.

“The me­dia has got­ten bet­ter about bring­ing aware­ness to the sub­ject,” she said.

“I for one am glad we talk about it, as not talk­ing about it just doesn’t make sense, and I think some shows or movies have done a good job at de­mys­ti­fy­ing it (men­tal health and sui­cide). How­ever, again, it is how it is used.”

If you or any­one you know needs help:

z Life­line on 13 11 14

z Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

z Men­sline Aus­tralia on 1300 789 978

z Sui­cide Call Back Ser­vice on 1300 659 467

z Be­yond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

z Headspace on 1800 650 890

z Rea­chout at au.rea­chout.com

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