Every year, Lifeline centres across the nation bring their communities together to observe World Suicide Prevention Day through Lifeline’s Out of the Shadows events, and this year the initiative is going ahead providing those involved with the opportunity to connect virtually.
Local community walks traditionally take place at sunrise and create a safe place of acceptance to mourn loved ones lost to suicide and reduce stigma by bringing suicide out of the shadows and into the light.
However physical distancing restrictions created by Covid-19, prompted organisers to change the way it is done.
This year, Lifeline plans to send a powerful message of hope by encouraging Australians to visit a virtual reflective garden to plant a flower and leave a message of remembrance or support, to show those who are struggling that they are not alone.
Lifeline Australia’s Chairman, John Brogden says Covid-19 restrictions have heightened the need to demonstrate support and provide a safe space for those impacted by suicide to mourn and reflect.
“Losing a loved one to suicide is different to any other loss, the stigma surrounding suicide is still very real.
“Often those who are grieving or experiencing suicidal ideation can experience tremendous marginalisation.
“The Covid-19 restrictions are exacerbating isolation, there are many left to grieve or struggle with their thoughts alone.
“Through Out of the Shadows, we aim to ensure that people feel connected and aware of the support and compassion that is around them,” he says.
In 2018, the last reporting period, there were 3,048 lives lost to suicide in Australia, with each life lost leaving families, friends, colleagues and communities devastated.
Mr Brogden implored Australians to visit the garden and plant a message of hope.
“There are over 10 million Australians who have been directly impacted by the loss of a family member, relative, friend, colleague or fellow student.
“There are many more who are struggling with their own mental wellbeing and it is particularly difficult with the uncertainty and change in routine that has been brought about by Covid.
“The things we used to keep busy with, can often no longer be done, many of our opportunities for connecting with others have been removed.
“So this year, we are calling on every Australian to make this garden bloom and help Lifeline send the clearest signal yet to those who are struggling, that they are not alone.
“All through the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been encouraging the community to connect with those they think may be doing it tough.
“We all have the power to make a positive difference to the lives of others, so we really do encourage people to invite someone you know to take a walk at sunrise and remember the many Australians we have lost to suicide and those they have left behind.
“Together, we can remove the stigma around mental health, we can make people feel connected and supported and we can work towards an Australia free of suicide,” Mr Brogden adds.
Mr Brogden is also encouraging any person in Australia who is struggling to make a connection with someone they trust, or reach out to Lifeline.
“These are challenging times, it is ok not to be feeling ok.
“Connecting with others is key.
“If you, or someone you know are feeling overwhelmed, we encourage you to connect with Lifeline in the way you feel most comfortable.
“Either phone us to speak to a Crisis Supporter on 13 11 14 (24 hours/7 days), or chat to us online at lifeline.org.au (7pm – midnight, 7 nights).”
To visit the virtual garden, go to: outoftheshadows.org.au
To join the virtual community of walkers via Zoom, participants are encouraged to register their walk on the Out of the Shadows website at: outoftheshadows.org.au