A new production that combines a play about suicide with a panel of mental health experts is hoping to connect and bring people together in local communities throughout Victoria.
The project’s fundraisers (not-for profit Parenting Guides Ltd + HealthPlay) argue that suicide has been taboo for too long and families should discuss it in a way that educates and potentially prevents self-harm and ultimately build resilience.
Suicide was the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15-44 in 2016 (source: ABS). A 2016 Orygen report also found small but gradual suicide rate increases over the past 10 years. Twice as many girls aged 15-19 suicided in 2015 than in 2005, and rates rose for children aged under 14.
Suicide: It’s Time We Talked is a 35-minute play that addresses youth suicide in the online era and how young people can reach breaking point without their parents realising. Jessica’s parents find suicidal comments on her computer when she climbs out her bedroom window. After giving her parents a scare, Jessica discusses her concerns with them, including bullying and her friend Lindy’s suicide. The message is one of understanding and hope.
Written by theatre veteran Alan Hopgood AM, the play is followed by a 45-minute Q&A with an expert panel including a GP, a mental health clinician and positive psychologist Marie Mcleo. Participants then enjoy refreshments.
Mr Hopgood, who writes health-themed plays based on true stories for HealthPlay says the format provides a comfortable setting to discuss sensitive but important topics. The theme initially encountered some resistance, but people backed the concept once he explains its importance. “There’s no reason why we can’t discuss it more openly,” he says.
Practical positive psychologist Marie McLeod, founder of PoPsy, says some people fear that talking about suicide might have a “copycat” effect, but appropriate discussion can help to prevent it.
“As we raise awareness, it becomes less of a taboo topic and people feel more comfortable talking about it,” she said. “The play is incredibly helpful in a visual way. That’s really the catalyst for the conversation.”
Ms Mcleo says the conversations offer realistic strategies to build resilience. “We can’t stop adversities in life,” she said. “But we need to think about how we equip young people with skills and strategies, and one of those strategies is talking.”
Founder of Parent Guides Eileen Berry said: “We want to deliver an end-to-end evening geared towards safety and how we can be there for each other. Our mission is to encourage people to seek help, maintain connections and raise awareness while providing practical tools, such as our comprehensive parent resource, Mental Health 101 and Marie’s workbook “Can you parent in ways that cultivate mentally-healthy kids”.
To donate and support the production visit: https://www.pozible.com/project/suicide-its-time-we-talked