Raising awareness: Mental health and suicide prevention

Alarmingly, according to the Productivity Commission Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Australia, eight people die by suicide every day in Australia – a number that the Mind and Brain Centre, University of Sydney, says is expected to increase by up to 25% as a result of the unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic.

Moreover, reportedly 1 in 5 Australians have a diagnosed mental health issue and an increasing number of people aged between 15-44 years are dying from suicide than any other cause.

In light of these sobering statistics, this World Suicide Prevention Day, held on Thursday 10 September 2020, we were reminded to reach out to someone, ask how they are – be the connection they might need.

Research required

Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation Executive Director, John Mannion says that mind and brain research is the only way to know what action needs to be taken to create a life free from mental illness.

“Research will bring us closer to answering many of the unknowns to help transform the lives of those affected by mental health issues.

“That’s why the statistics are so alarming. Particularly with access to social media and the content circulating across Facebook and TikTok as reported this week,” he says.

The importance of awareness

No family is immune to the potential issues surrounding mental health and the risk of suicide – it happens to families all over Australia and all over the world.

Just like Debbie’s family.

Two years ago, Debbie’s daughter, Maddy took her own life and now Debbie is sharing her story in a bid to help raise awareness around suicide and created a lasting legacy for her daughter.

“This cannot happen again. It is not acceptable. I never want another family to feel what we’ve felt,” says Debbie.

“I’m very passionate about supporting mental health research. I do not want suicide to have the devastating effect on others that it had on my family.

“I don’t want mental illness to cause pain to anyone else,” she says.

Mr Mannion is grateful to Debbie and her family for sharing their story and raising awareness around such important issues.

“By talking about her daughter, Maddy in such a personal way shows great strength. It shows an innate desire to help those affected by mental illness.

“Debbie’s experience demonstrates that mental illness does not discriminate.

“Directly or indirectly, it touches us all,” he says.

To learn more about the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, visit: breakthroughfoundation.org.au.

Impact of suicide in regional communities

Suicide Prevention Australia has recently released new data detailing the impact of suicide in regional communities.

The research reveals that regional Australians impacted by suicide are more likely to experience multiple loses of family, friends and community members (67%) compared to their city counterparts (60%).

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray says that more than four million regional Australians have been personally impacted by suicide, with 66% of those living outside city limits supporting the Federal Government introducing a standalone National Suicide Prevention Act that takes a whole government approach.

“I live in our regions and you only have to look around and see that global disasters like Covid-19 hit our local economies, communities and services harder and faster than our capital cities,” says Ms Murray.

“The better we can proactively predict what economic and social risks are facing our regional and rural communities, the better we can prepare Australians and prevent suicide rates increasing.

“International evidence shows the best way to achieve this is through a standalone National Suicide Prevention Act that embeds a whole government … response,” she says, adding that in raising awareness around suicide prevention it’s important to support “Australians to know what to say beyond, ‘RUOK?'”.

For more on World Suicide Prevention Day, visit: iasp.info/wspd2020/

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, reach out to: beyondblue.org.au or lifeline.org.au.

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