Every year over 3,000 Australians tragically lose their lives to suicide and mental health disorders play a role in this heartbreaking statistic. It is estimated that around 5% of Australians have experienced thoughts of ending their lives.
In Australia this means an average of 8.57 deaths related to suicide occur each day surpassing the number of fatalities caused by road accidents.
Numerous studies highlight the connection between health issues like depression, psychosis and substance abuse and an increased risk of suicide. However it’s important to note that having these risk factors doesn’t automatically mean someone will consider or attempt self harm.
Fortunately certain factors can help reduce the likelihood of suicide by promoting resilience. These include mental health care services, therapeutic interventions, a strong support network and creating a sense of belonging for individuals, in need.
The relationship between mental well-being and suicidal ideation
People who think about suicide often face a combination of health issues and difficult life circumstances. They may experience sadness, negative thoughts, intense anxiety and even episodes of psychosis, which can lead to thoughts of ending their own lives.
Scientists believe that some individuals who consider suicide do not actually want to die but feel trapped with no way to ease their pain. They may feel overwhelmed by despair. See no hope for improvement in their situation. Those who choose to end their lives often crave relief from the turmoil they are going through.
However with the help support, from society and time many people who have either attempted or thought about suicide can go on to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Suicide is a phenomenon that doesn’t stem from a single event or discussion but rather from a combination of various factors in an individuals life. It’s important to understand that suicide is not caused by one thing.
Other suicide risk factors
Apart from disorders there are several other factors that increase the risk of suicide including;
- Substance abuse
- Chronic illness, pain or physical disabilities
- Feeling isolated or overwhelmed with despair
- Experiencing the loss of a loved one
- Facing life circumstances like abuse, significant loss or financial difficulties
- Having a history of suicide attempts or witnessing suicidal behavior, in others.
In terms of demographics, men, individuals living in remote areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have higher rates of suicide.
Suicide warning signs
People who are considering self harm often show signs beforehand. For individuals dealing with health issues these signs can manifest as an increase or intensification of their existing symptoms. Some notable warning signs to look out for include;
- Expressing feelings of despair or powerlessness.
- Feeling a sense of shame or remorse.
- Exhibiting changes in behavior physical appearance or engaging in erratic or unconventional actions.
- Experiencing changes in eating habits or sleep patterns.
- Seeing a decline in performance at school or work.
- Losing interest in activities they used to enjoy and feeling less hopeful about the Engaging in discussions writing or making remarks about suicide, mortality or their intention to harm themselves.
- Giving away belongings and getting their personal affairs organized.
- Suddenly appearing calm. Resolved without any apparent reason.
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs, as a coping mechanism.
- Gradually withdrawing from friends family members or social circles.
These are some indicators that someone may be struggling and could benefit from support and assistance.
What to do if a relative or friend lets you know that they are at risk of suicide
When there is a concern that someone we know whether it be a friend or family member may be in danger of suicide it is crucial to address the situation with sensitivity and without any notions. Contrary to misunderstandings starting a conversation about this matter does not implant thoughts of suicide but rather creates an opportunity for the person to express their distress.
It is advisable to encourage and support the individual in seeking assistance if necessary. There are resources available such as mental health professionals or crisis hotlines like;
1. Lifeline at 13 11 14 (open 24/7)
2. Kids Help Line at 1800 551 800 (available around the clock)
3. Suicide Call Back Service at 1300 659 467 (available at all times)
4. at 1300 651 251 (24 hour service)
If the person displays signs of suicidal tendencies it is extremely important to stay close by if possible and immediately contact the psychiatric unit of the nearest medical facility. Alternatively dial emergency services at number “000” and provide details about their suicidal feelings any plans they may have mentioned and express immediate concern for their well being. It’s advisable to keep these emergency contact numbers accessible, for prompt intervention if required.
After a suicide attempt
Witnessing a suicide attempt can elicit a range of deep and unpredictable emotions for both family and friends. Each persons reaction is unique. There is no one size fits all approach to handling such situations.
Supporting someone after a suicide attempt can feel overwhelming and emotionally draining. Taking care of oneself becomes crucial in circumstances. It’s important to stay in touch with friends, family and loved ones while also setting aside time for reflection. Seeking support from services support groups or medical professionals to express personal feelings is advisable.
Getting familiar, with the signs and behaviors that indicate suicidal risk can be helpful. It’s important not to blame oneself for the attempted suicide. Interfering when someone is determined to end their life can be exceptionally challenging.
If you are thinking about becoming suicidal
Experiencing thoughts of suicide can be incredibly difficult. May feel overwhelming at times. However it’s important to remember that these thoughts are temporary and don’t require action. It’s crucial to understand that with the support you can navigate through these emotions and ensure your personal well being. Many people have successfully overcome moments and you have the potential to do so as well.
If you find yourself facing distressing thoughts there are several safety measures you can take;
- Reach out to someone you trust whether its a family member, friend or teacher.
- Seek their company until you can seek help.
- Contact a hospital and ask for assistance, from their mental health unit.
- Consult primary care providers, psychologists, psychiatrists or other mental health professionals.
- Call a crisis hotline.
References will be provided later in this document. In case of emergencies, dial emergency services.
Take a moment to reflect on instances when you dealt with stressful challenges. How did you overcome them? Could those coping strategies be applied now?
Remember to focus on the moment rather than getting too caught up in worrying about the future or potential improvements which could intensify feelings of being overwhelmed.
Divide your day into engaging tasks making sure to plan them in a logical order. Take the steps to ensure your safety or consult an established safety protocol. You might find it helpful to try out BeyondNow, an app created by Beyond Blue specifically designed to assist individuals dealing with suicidal thoughts. Additionally explore relaxation techniques and make it a point to communicate regularly with your healthcare provider. Remember that adjustments, in treatments may help alleviate the intensity of these thoughts.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that you are not obliged to act upon these thoughts. With time and support their overwhelming impact will gradually fade away.
Here is where you can find help
- SANE Help Centre
- SANE Forums
- People in the SANE Forums want to talk to you and offer support.
- Kids Help Line
- Suicide Call Back Service
Remember, if you or someone you know is in crisis or needs immediate help, always call emergency services in your country. For example, in Australia, that number is 000.
Mark Willson, holding a Ph.D., functions as a psychotherapist in Washington, D.C. His specialized fields encompass addiction, anxiety, depression, as well as sexuality and interpersonal connections. Dr. Willson holds the distinction of being a diplomat for the American Board of Addiction and Anxiety, further serving as a certified counselor and addiction specialist.
Aside from his personal professional endeavors, Dr. Wilson has engaged in roles as an author, journalist, and creator within substantial medical documentary projects.