8 Australians die by suicide every single day. What can you do to help?
Awareness is key. With an alarming 65,000 suicide attempts made in Australia each year, action is needed. Challenging the misconceptions associated with suicide is essential to ensure people can ask for and give help without discrimination. Prevention encompasses a range of interventions, and starting with a simple question could make a difference.
We talked to one of Wavelength’s Psychiatrists this RUOK day for some ideas on how to offer help to someone you are worried about.
R U Ok Day is a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask “Are you ok?”, and support those struggling with life. R U OK?'s vision is a world where we're all connected and are protected from suicide.
How to ask?
We spoke with one of our Wavelength Psychiatrists, Dr Mahendra Perera, to find out more from a professional’s perspective. Dr Perera has over 30 years of experience in Psychiatry, including more than 20 years as a Consultant and Specialist Psychiatrist.
What things should we look out for if we are worried about someone?
As a very general response, the main thing you should look out for is a change of behaviour – perhaps they’re not dressed properly, behaving a manner that is not their usual for them.
It’s important to consider that this could be a one off (we all have days when we forget to iron a shirt) but observe if it’s a repeated pattern and take it from there.
What should our next steps be?
Have an empathic approach because we do not know what their problems may be.
Talk to them in confidence – ask if they’re ok, start the conversation, and assure them that the conversation is in confidence (for Doctors that is within the limits of our professional bounds). Try to find out what is going on, if they are willing to share with you. This may take more than one conversation.
If the person you are concerned about is in denial, perhaps flag it with someone else close to that person, to see if they have also noticed the changes you have or whether they have had any concerns.
In the medical workplace, if necessary, you might discuss your concerns in confidence with the Unit Manager or the Clinical Director, as to what steps should be taken to help the individual in distress.
Try not to take on too much responsibility yourself. When speaking with the affected person, be upfront and say you have noticed that they have not been themselves. Maybe they don’t want to talk to you. You could then suggest they could seek help from other professional sources such as a GP, councillor or helpline.
Always ensure that you stay non-judgemental and your demeanor must remain non-threatening.
4 Steps to start a conversation that matters
The R U OK? website has some great tips on how to start a conversation with someone you’re worried about. They recommend to act if you have “a niggling feeling that someone you know or care about isn’t behaving as they normally would? Perhaps they seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they’re just not themselves. – Trust that gut instinct and act on it.”
Follow these 4 steps to start a mental wellbeing conversation:
1. Ask R U Ok?
2. Listen without judgement
3. Encourage action
4. Check in with them again – stay in touch
By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. If they say they are not ok, you can follow the conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. If they are ok, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask!
Fortunately, there are many sources that you can seek help from, such as:
Between 2001 – 2012, 369 suicides by Health Professionals were recorded in Australia.
Mental health wellness is a number one concern in the medical industry, with first responders and medical staff seeing and dealing with stressful and traumatising situations on a regular basis. Not only that, but the long hours, training programs and pressure on Doctors, has a massive impact on their mental wellbeing.
To support our medical professionals, we have partnered with Select Wellness to offer tailored wellbeing support services. If you would like a confidential conversation with Select Wellness, please get in touch either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone on 0407 005 701.
And don’t forget, before you help someone else, you need to take care of yourself. It’s ok to ask for help too, you don’t have to do it all.
R U OK?