In Tasmania, unfortunately very few of us have to look too far to know someone who has been affected by suicide.
Globally 800,000 people die by suicide each year and there are 135 people affected by every suicide – that’s 108 million people who are bereaved by suicide each year.
These are the facts – it’s not intended to be sensationalist or emotive – it highlights that we need to be doing everything we can to reduce the impact that suicide has on people’s lives.
Research conducted by RU OK? has shown nearly two-thirds of Australians are not sure they know the signs that someone might be struggling.
What’s encouraging is that almost half believed that they’d be more confident asking someone “RU OK?”, if they knew how to recognise when somebody might be struggling.
There are three simple questions RU OK? encourage you to consider when looking out for signs that somebody might need support with their mental health.
Firstly: “What are they saying?” Do they seem confused or irrational, unable to switch off and constantly cornered about work or school? Taking the time to really listen to each other and checking in with friends regularly can make it easier to pick-up on any changes; and to offer support or direct them to suitable services.
Secondly: “What are they doing?” Have you noticed lately that they seem to be less interested in what they used to love; perhaps taking days off school, missing sports training or uninterested in socialising with friends? Looking out for the slight or significant changes in our friends and colleagues’ behaviours is an important step in recognising when something might be wrong.
Third & Finally – What’s going on in their lives? Are they experiencing relationship issues, major health issues, work pressures or did they recently lose somebody close to them? It’s normal in life to experience ups-and-downs, to deal with change and loss – however as friends, family members and colleagues we need to use our awareness and knowledge of their normal behaviour as a reference for when something changes – to notice when life seems to be affecting them negatively in the long-term.
We encourage people to learn more about the topic – the signs and symptoms that someone is struggling – and it’s important to gain knowledge on the help and services that are out there.
The 2019 RU OK? Day theme is ‘Trust the signs and trust your gut’. When it comes to Suicide Prevention, if you’re worried about someone there’s a reason for feeling that way, trust your gut and ask the question.
Rather than putting it down to overthinking the situation or getting things wrong, take a deep breath and have the conversation – you never know how important this can be until you put it into action.
At SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY we aim to help people understand and recognise the signs and feel empowered to ask the question – but also ask for support.
SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY was created following a lived experience and a desire to reduce stigma, increase awareness of the signs and ensure that people understand why it’s important to talk to those around them about how they’re feeling. Lived experience is a vital component in helping people understand what suicide prevention is and how they can get involved.
Stories are powerful and can make a positive difference. Most importantly, they unite people by providing them with an experience and an opportunity to think about how things could be.
If you’re reading this wondering, “What can I do?” – just start a conversation.
You don’t have to just ask: “Are you ok?” Check in with your friends and think about, “What are they saying?”, “What are they doing?” and “What’s happening in their life?”
If something seems off to you, or you notice they’ve changed, follow-up about this and ask if they need support.
Having conversations with our friends about mental health can be daunting, however RU OK? recommends: “Listen, Encourage Action and Check-In”.
Following this format could change a life.
One of the things that people are often concerned about is what to do if the person replies, “I’m not ok”.
Remember, you don’t need to be the person to solve the problem, you just need to be the person to encourage them to take action. You can support them by linking them to an appropriate service, like their GP or Lifeline.
It can be difficult to find the courage to tell your story or ask for help, especially if you feel like you’re in it alone.
However, when we unite on days such as World Suicide Prevention Day, RU OK? Day, and during weeks such as National Mental Health Week, it can help people feel like they are part of something bigger; perhaps inspiring courage to tell their story or ask for help.
Remember, trust your gut – it may be one of the most important things you do.
For 24/7 crisis support or suicide prevention services, please call 13 11 14. If life is in danger, call 000.
Dr Michael Kelly
Chief Operating Officer Relationships Australia Tasmania
Founder SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY
Relationships Australia Tasmania