Suicide is a huge health problem in Australia and around the world. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 800,000+ people die by suicide every year — that’s one person every 40 seconds! When you consider that more people die around the world from suicide than from homicide, war and terrorism combined you start to get an idea of the scale of the problem.
So why doesn’t suicide command the same level of attention as other headline-grabbing subjects?
One reason is that people may feel that they can’t talk about suicide and suicidal thoughts with their family and friends. It’s an understandably uncomfortable topic that could be seen as wrong, taboo, morbid or ‘out of bounds’.
The truth, though, is surprising. We can all help reduce the suicide rate in Australia. Even better, it doesn’t cost you any money. In fact, you probably don’t even have to leave home…
How can you help reduce the suicide rate?
People who feel they are alone or in a hopeless situation are at greater risk of suicide. They may believe that there’s no way out, that they are responsible or to blame, or that things will never change.
If they’re able to receive friendly, caring and non-judgemental support from their families and friends, then they’re likely to feel less distressed about the situation. This in turn means they’re less likely to self-harm. This is supported by studies that suggest a network of people who care is a great way to help someone in distress.
Easy steps to help someone who is thinking about suicide
Our friends at R U OK? came up with this simple idea that anyone can use. It explains how to ask, listen, encourage and check in. Check it out for some easy steps to help someone you care about.
Here are some other helpful things you can do when it comes to talking about suicide.
Get a safe and familiar space
A space that’s safe and familiar will work best. A sensitive discussion is best had somewhere like home (if that’s where the person feels cared about, accepted, supported and understood) rather than at a café or on the drive home.
Letting them know you support them, and asking open-ended questions, can help with the communication.
Listen – then listen some more
You might just end up saving someone’s life if you take on a little guidance on ways to provide helpful listening and support.
The key is to get the conversation started. For example, you might ask “I’m worried about you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.” People at risk of suicide often aren’t looking for advice. Many times they just want someone to talk to and who is compassionate. Let them know that you are there for them.
Give them a chance to share how they feel
Many people are afraid to ask someone they know if they are OK because they worry that they won’t know what to do if the person responds that they aren’t doing well.
If you are having a discussion about suicide with someone you care about, then remember that there’s no universal way that works for everyone. Remember, you can’t make a person suicidal by showing them that you care. In fact, allowing a person who is feeling suicidal to share their feelings can often help as they may feel like they “got something off their chest”.
There are many suicide myths and facts – and one of the most widespread suicide myths is that it’s not ok to talk about it.
Other ways to help someone who is feeling suicide
Help with a suicide safety plan
A suicide safety plan is a good way for people to keep themselves safe when they’re feeling suicidal. Having a solid plan in place may help people feel prepared and in control if they do start thinking about suicide.
Look into the new ReMinder app
ReMinder is a self-managed resource for users to adopt as part of their own coping strategy. The ReMinder app helps users create a simple suicide safety plan, which they can access on their mobile device at any time. A suicide safety plan can help to keep clients safe when they are feeling low or suicidal. ReMinder is designed to remind clients of reasons to live and connect them with the people and services who can help during the tough times.
More information and links to download the ReMinder app can be found here: nqconnect.com.au/reminderapp
The next step is to support them to get professional help – a doctor, a counsellor or a hospital. Do not try to deal with the situation alone.
If you’re worried about someone, supporting them to get professional help is critical. Some people find telephone counselling particularly helpful, as it’s an immediate, anonymous and less threatening source of support. You can get help from NQ Connect on the phone via 1300 059 625 or with online counselling.
If it’s an emergency
If you’re worried for the immediate safety of someone you care about:
- Call 000 and request an ambulance. Stay on the line, speak clearly, and be ready to answer the operator’s questions.
- Attend your local hospital’s emergency department.
- Call your local Public Emergency Mental Health Service.
Each of these emergency services teams are specially trained to support people in crisis, including people feeling suicidal, and are able to keep you safe.
Need more help?
NQ Connect has a range of helpful mental resources and topics.
- Mental health resources
- Mental health discussion forum
- K10 anxiety and depression test
- Support services map and database
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016) Causes of Death, Australia, 2014. Catalogue No. 3303.0. Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.