According to Beyond Blue, suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, about 200 Australians attempt suicide every day and of those, on average, eight will die.
Another frightening statistic is that young people who have attempted suicide are 18 times more likely to try it again, and are 40 times more likely to die by suicide in the future. For me personally, this shocked and saddened me, but was the jolt I needed to make sure I was more in tune with my family and friends.
Suicide prevention starts with recognising certain factors your child may be experiencing - openly and honestly talk to your children in a safe and calm environment about what’s going on in their life, their feelings, how they're coping with school, friends - discuss and educate topics such as mental illness and bullying....and ultimately listen to them and seek professional help if needed. There are some great handouts at Headspace around these issues. Click here for more information.
Some of the factors to be aware of that can play a part in altering your child’s behaviour and mental healthinclude:... factors such as;
- Substance abuse
- Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar etc.
- Conflict with loved ones (both friends and family)
- Disciplinary problems at school/work
- Recent death of a family member or close friend
- Constant exposure to bullying /cyber bullying
Now, just because your child may be experiencing one (or more) of these factors doesn’t automatically mean they are thinking about suicide or will attempt to take their life – it is just crucial to be aware of any potential issues your child is facing, keep a close eye on their behaviour, and check in with them and TALK to them if you're feeling concerned.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about suicide when talking to your child....it's okay – you can’t ‘put the idea of suicide’ in someone’s head just by talking about it. Who knows, with you asking the tough question, may just end up being the 'right' question in opening up precious communication with your child...... by asking the direct question can also flag any serious issues in your child’s life and if you need the assistance of a professional.
If you're unsure of what to ask your child, consider one of the following questions to start your conversations (it's okay..you can do it);
- "Are you having thoughts about suicide?"
- "Do you ever wish you were dead?"
During these conversations, take the opportunity to suggest alternative ways they could cope with their issues – encourage your child to take up sport or pursue their creative interests such as drawing or writing. By doing this, you're demonstrating to your child there are healthy and positive outlets to deal with emotions and they don't have to keep their feelings bottled up or hidden from everyone. A document with a list of alternatives of thoughts of self harm and/or suicide may also be a interactive way for you to talk to your child, go through the list and highlight ideas that might help with regulating or expressing emotions in a more appropriate manner.
For example; if you're feeling angry or restless, why not try one of the alternatives;
- Pop bubble wrap or balloons
- Go for a run
- Write down your feelings on a piece of paper, then rip it up
- Make a calm jar (fill a jar up with glitter and water and shake the jar...focus on the glitter until it settles)
There are so many alternatives, to what you may be feeling, so if you're finding yourself feeling angry, scared, panicked or even just wanting to do something to distract yourself, click here to download our "Alternatives to Anything" document. We hope it helps.
That said, it is important to remember that people who self-harm do not usually do it with the intent to suicide, but is often in response to intense pain, distress, or overwhelming feelings, thoughts, or memories. Click here for more information.
It is also important to know, that just as there are factors you need to be aware of when monitoring your child, there are just as many ways to minimise the overwhelming emotions of your child may have. Ways to help keep your child feeling safe and protected are;
- Positive relationships with parents/guardians
- Connections to other adults (sporting coach, teacher etc)
- Close friends
- Feeling safe at school
- Awareness of community groups, health professionals that are there to help
I would like to take this opportunity to bring to your attention that 10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day, and their theme for 2018 is “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”.
The theme was chosen as it highlights the key ingredient in suicide prevention – collaboration. We ALL have a role to play in assisting with suicide prevention and raising awareness. This year's theme also works in conjunction with R U OK? Day (13th September) – another very important and worthy cause.
To find out more about “Working Together to Prevent Suicide” click here, but remember, support your friends, family and colleagues – take some time to notice what's going on their life and ask the question...you may just help save someone's life.
For those who are in need of help and unsure of where to start, here are a few numbers for you to refer to;
- Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 (24 hours, 7 days a week)
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 (24 hours, 7 days a week)
- Accessline – 1800 800 944 (New South Wales)
- 24 Mental Health Crisis Line - 1300 881 104 (Victoria)
- Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital - (02) 5943 1000
- Corowa Hopital – (02) 6033 7555
- Albury Base Hospital – (02) 6058 4444
You can also download our "Teen Help Line" information sheet here.