Wendy Carver

Every day six Australians die by suicide and another 180 people attempt suicide. Whether we knoe it or not, most of us know someone who has thought about or attempted suicide.

Despite this prevalence, suicide is infrequently talked about and often misunderstood within our society. It is these myths and stigmas about suicide that continue to work against people reaching out for help when they are at their most vulnerable.

Living in a society that doesn’t talk about suicide just adds to a person’s negative feelings surrounding their mental health and can increase a person’s risk of feeling suicidal. We must accept that fighting the stigma and myths around suicide is absolutely essential if Australians are serious about reducing deaths by suicide.

While organisations such as Lifeline are comitted to supporting Australians in times of crisis and equipping individuals and communities to be resilient and suicide safe, suicide prevention needs to become the responsibility of the whole community.

The Myth

Many people believe that talking about suicide encourages suicide attempts, or that people who say they are suicidal never attempt to complete suicide. They believe that all people who attempt suicide are mentally ill, and that when a suicidal person starts to feel better the danger is over. None of this is true.

Other common myths:
* Professional, experience therapists are the only ones who can help people at risk of suicide when they reach out for help
* If someone wants to end their life, they will. There is nothing you can do to stop them
* People who attempt suicide are merely looking for attention, they are slefish and/or manipulative
Those around someone who has been bereaved by another’s suicide shouldn’t talk about it with them

The Reality
Suicide is always tragic, but in many cases can be prevented. Many of life’s challenges such as loss and grief, social isolation, financial problems or relationship breakdown can act as triggers for suicide. Sometimes people at risk who suddenly appear calm and content have already made the decision to end their life. However, many people do recover from feelings, thoughts or attempots of suicide and go on to lead normal healthy lives.

Other facts:
* Talking about suicide does not increase risk, it reduces it and can be the key to preventing the immediate danger of suicide
* People feeling suicidal need you to be non-judgemental, caring, supportive and empathetic
* The best way to know if someone is feeling suicidal is to directly ask them

Wendy Carver is the CEO of The Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury. If you would like more information on suicide prevention, call Lifeline’s 24-hour Crisis Support Line on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline2h.org.au