If you’re concerned that someone you know might be thinking about taking their own life, it’s important to be direct in asking the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
That was the message on Sunday 10 September on World Suicide Prevention Day, when more than 400 people walked to bring suicide ‘Out of the Shadows’ and to commemorate loved ones lost to suicide at events hosted by Lifeline Melbourne and Lifeline Ballarat.
The Out of the Shadows walks are hosted annually on World Suicide Prevention Day by Lifeline centres across the country to create awareness about the appropriate ways to talk about suicide and bereavement and reduce stigma around suicide.
In Ballarat, 100 walkers gathered in the early dawn at Lake Wendouree to light a candle for loved ones lost. As dawn crept in, they committed to encourage everyone to reach out, listen and connect, show care and link loved ones to support services to help keep them safe.
In Melbourne, more than 300 people walked around the Royal Botanical Gardens. A memorial roll to those lost to suicide was read at both walks.
A national survey undertaken by Lifeline Australia for World Suicide Prevention Day has revealed mixed results when it comes to suicide stigma in Australia.
While decades of hard work in changing community perceptions around suicide are making a difference, there is still a long way to go to bring suicide out of the shadows.
Survey results revealed that sadly, one in three survey respondents still believe suicide to be ‘irresponsible’, ‘cowardly’ or ‘stupid’.
In light of this, Lifeline Australia Chairman John Brogden said efforts need to be doubled to make it OK for people to talk about their struggles and reach out for help.
Lifeline Melbourne Manager Tina Thomas said the survey results give added importance to this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme of ‘take a minute, change a life’.
“Our staff and volunteers understand the lifesaving difference a caring and non-judgemental conversation can make,” Tina said.
“You don’t need to be a doctor or psychologist to help a friend or family member – we can all take a minute to reach out to someone who might be going through tough times.”
Lifeline Ballarat Manager Michelle MacGillivray said the Out of the Shadows walk was an important way to stand united against death by suicide.
“It’s vitally important that the door to talk about suicide is always open. This walk was a chance for people in our community affected by suicide to support each other, raise awareness and remember loved ones lost to suicide,” said Michelle.
“One of the most effective things each of us can do is reach out to someone in distress and show them we care by listening to them without judgment and assisting them to gain help.”
Australia is in the midst of a national suicide emergency. Sadly, 3,027 Australians took their own lives in 2015. That is eight per day, one every three hours. Suicide is the most common cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp
Lifeline Melbourne and Lifeline Ballarat are programs of Uniting. To find out more, visit: www.vt.uniting.org/services/lifeline