Article written by Sally Websiter
More than 7 people take their own life every day in Australia.
This is a devastating fact but it’s one the R U Ok charity is working to change.
R U Ok Day is an annual event and a national initiative to help prevent suicide by encouraging communication and connecting with others. Sadly and astoundingly, suicide is the main cause of death in Australia for both males and females between the ages of 15-44. So it’s understandably a very difficult and sensitive topic for many of us to talk about and something we don’t like to think about.
People who choose to end their life, generally do so because they:
- Feel hopeless and despairing
- Feel alone and disconnected from others; and also,
- Believe they are a burden on their friends and family
R U Ok is working to change this feeling of isolation by encouraging friends, family and colleagues to reach out if they notice someone isn’t themselves and ask the question, ‘Are you okay?’
By starting a conversation, we can help others who may be vulnerable or at risk to feel supported and appreciated before they begin to entertain contemplations of suicide.
Noticing Warning Signs Our busy, self-consumed lives mean we sometimes may not notice the warning signs that someone is in distress or perhaps suffering from a mental health condition. It is often true that people may not even realise it themselves. Warning signs to look out for include:
- Changes in mood – happy one moment and sad the next
- Giving up hobbies and loss of interest or enjoyment
- Decreasing performance or loss of concentration at school or work
- Feelings of frustration, anger or worthlessness
- Giving away prized possessions – clothing, jewellery or electronics
- Writing or talking about death – even joking about it
- Obtaining dangerous possessions – e.g. medication or weapons
- Self-harming behaviour
By recognising such changes in behaviour, others can engage, respond and talk to the person who appears vulnerable as a way of showing they care.
Simply Connecting Reaching out interpersonally is a great way to engender connectedness on a community level. It is certainly a great benefit to those who may be feeling vulnerable to have others show interest. The simple fact of being noticed goes a long way towards heightening one’s sense of self-worth and diminishing feelings of isolation.
But what do you say when you are concerned that someone is at risk?
Having an Honest Conversation Starting a conversation – especially about suicide, isn’t easy and it’s okay to be concerned about how the person will react. You may be afraid it will exacerbate the person’s vulnerability, however experts say that mentioning suicide is unlikely to make a vulnerable person feel worse and it’s a question you may need to ask.
To make the conversation a little easier, we’ve come up with some helpful suggestions below:
- If possible, have the conversation in person and in private
- Make them feel comfortable, tell them you care and that you want to help
- Try not to interrupt and listen without making any judgements, even if you don’t understand why they’re feeling a certain way
- Encourage them to disclose as much information as possible but don’t try to problem-solve
If you feel this conversation is too difficult for you to handle on your own, make sure you let someone else know who may be in a better position to help. Don’t feel you need to hold the burden of secrecy all on your own. Remember – Safety comes first – even if it means breaching confidentiality.
Become Involved You can help spread awareness of suicide prevention and mental health in your workplace or community by hosting an R U Ok event. It might be a morning tea, sausage sizzle or a game of soccer. It’s also a great way to help raise money for the cause. You can register here to receive an event pack with useful resources and also purchase a range of merchandise to support your event.
R U Ok Day will be held this year on Thursday the 13th September 2018. Suicide is an issue that’s among us all the time, so we should connect with others and support them every day. You can find out the latest information about R U Ok here. The conversation starts with just one simple question but it can have a powerful impact.
If you or someone you know would like to speak to a qualified psychologist, please call us on (03) 9500 0751 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. We’re here to help you. Please also note the helpful resources below.
Lifeline (Call 13 11 14)
Sources of Information