SUICIDAL thoughts are an emergency, but are still just an illness to be dealt with like any other health problem, a suicide prevention advocate said.
Diane Russell lost her adult son Jason to suicide two years ago, and as the Hawkesbury co-ordinator of the Suicide Prevention and Support Network Western Sydney she wants to reduce the stigma around suicidal thoughts and ask the community to reach out to anyone who might be struggling.
The group has targeted Hawkesbury’s five high schools during Mental Health Week this week with RUOK Day material for Thursday, September 14. Hawkesbury, Colo, Windsor and Richmond high schools and Bede Polding College have all received RUOK kits. With wristbands, stickers, tattoos and balloons, the kits help to start conversations about the need to tell people if you’re not feeling OK, and the need to ask if you notice someone may not be OK. Feeling disconnected from others is often part of the problem and asking how someone is can start a connection.
“There’s a big stigma about suicide,” Ms Russell said. “People don’t want to talk about it with someone as they’re afraid they might set them off.” She works at Hawkesbury Hospital emergency department and so is there if someone is brought in who has made a suicide attempt or when they are brought in by friends or family who are worried about them being suicidal.
“We ask people ‘are you suicidal?’,” she said. “They actually will tell us, we find. They’re usually very flat, and it’s their way of seeking help. For us, our mission is to reduce the rate of suicide, and suicide attempts, to zero. We need to be able to make a way for people to talk about it. Talking is a safeguard, not a trigger. If you’re worried about someone, ask them if they’re OK. There’s nothing worse than thinking afterwards ‘I should have talked to them’.”
She said if any parent was worried about their child, contact the school counsellor; if someone is older and they say they have suicidal thoughts, they should be taken to emergency at Hawkesbury or Nepean hospitals. “Nepean Hospital has their own specialist unit for those with suicidal thoughts and other acute mental health issues,” she said.
The Suicide Prevention network is also funding a free group counselling session at Hawkesbury House fortnightly for those who have lost someone to suicide. The next is September 19. RSVP or enquire on 4577 6454.
The RUOK Day team will offer free coffee cards outside Bendigo Bank in Richmond Mall on Thursday 10am-12pm, then at Donut King in Richmond Marketplace from 12pm-2pm.
- If you need help call Lifeline on 13 11 14.