Talking about suicide and depression is still a taboo for many people.
About seven people take their own lives every day in Australia and more than 65,000 people attempt suicide each year. Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016 show that the highest suicide rates by age group and gender were men and women over the age of 85 years.
However, today is national “R U OK?” day which aims to shine a light on mental health and suicide prevention. This day is organised by the suicide prevention charity of the same name that encourages friends to ask anyone who might be struggling that simple question.
The idea is simple. Ask your family and friends if they are really fine. Try to get them to open up and tell you if they are not coping.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley this year has made a statement urging Australians to reach out to their loved ones today and really ask how they are coping with life.
Ms Ley says it’s about reaching out to family, friends and colleagues to make sure they’re okay.
About 2800 Australians die every year in Australia due to suicide, but Ms Ley says many of those deaths could be prevented.
“Starting a conversation could make a real difference to someone’s life,” she said.
Small acts of kindness like listening without judgement and providing support could make all the difference to someone struggling with a mental illness, she said.
“It could help save a life.”
Today is a reminder that asking after someone’s well-being is okay – and feeling comfortable to offer a few more words about how you’re feeling, is absolutely okay too.
As the R U OK website states: “It’s this lack of connection (or lack of belonging) that we want to prevent. By inspiring people to take the time to ask “are you ok?” and listen, we can help people struggling with life feel connected long before they think about suicide. It all comes down to regular, face-to-face, meaningful conversations about life. Asking “are you ok?” is a great place to start.’’
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
Beyondblue 1300 22 4636.
Here’s a video of Hugh Jackman on why he supports this important initiative: