EMERGENCY services say you never get used to suicide, regardless of how many times you have seen it.
While the family of a victim undoubtedly goes through the most when a loved one chooses to take their own life, for respondents, be they police, fire, ambulance or the SES, the after effects live on day-to-day.
For police, while they understand that death is part of the job, for many first respondents, suicide is hitting hard.
Recently, police have attended two suspected suicides on the Ballarat train line.
Inspector Trevor Cornwill said while dealing with immediate aftermaths was tough, the hardest part for officers was delivering the devastating news to family.
“You become emotionally invested in helping family through what is the most difficult time,” he said.
“It takes a lot of effort to compose yourself when delivering the death message. It has an enormous impact on the members. We had a recent example working alongside the SES where we had to walk the track, we had to gather evidence, it’s incredibly hard for everyone involved.”
Inspector Cornwill said police were getting better at understanding signs of concern in their officers.
“Your body is a cup and if you keep adding drops to it, eventually it becomes full,” he said.
“We’re getting better at it in the police force. We’ve got a great police psychology area, it’s important members can discuss the trauma in the first 48 hours.
“It can be very difficult to talk to colleagues and family members about what you have seen.”
Your body is a cup and if you keep adding drops to it, eventually it becomes fullInspector Trevor Cornwill
Inspector Cornwill said in his 30 years of policing he had seen numerous occasions of post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and even the loss of members to suicide.
“There has always been a thought to just get on with the job,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say that police are now more sensitive than we used to be, but it is about providing treatment along the way.”
Ballarat has one of the highest suicide rates in the country
“I don’t know why it is, it’s a combination of factors coming together,” he said.
“It has been discussed that in Europe winter seems to be a higher rate, lack of sunlight can leads to feelings of depression and can cause issues. There’s not doubt people feel happier in summer.
“We also have high family violence rates in Ballarat, there’s also historical incidents with institutions that must play a factor, the unemployment rate, modern pressure on life.”
He said while there was no set group most at risk, men aged in their 40s and sadly, teenagers were among the groups police saw often.
“The pressure on kids is far greater now than when i was growing up, there’s always a lot of bullying on social media,” he said.
“It’s good to see people in the community are more willing to discuss suicide.
“Years ago nobody spoke about it, by talking about it, it adds more awareness and hopefully it will prompt more to get help.
“Suicide was a criminal offence, not anymore. It’s accepted today as a health condition.”
Ballarat SES deputy controller Craig Elliott said peer support was always the key to getting through difficult situations.
“The best support is the person you work with, they are the first people involved and you have to always looks after each other,” he said.
It’s never too late to seek support
You are not alone.
There are a wide variety of numbers you or friends and family can call for crisis support and professional help.
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
headspace Ballarat for youth: 5304 4777 or eheadspace.org.au
Kids Help Line: 1800551800
Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
MensLine: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network: suicidepreventionBallarat.com.au
QLife: 1800 184 527 (support for LGBTI community.)
Emergency Services: 000 (triple zero)
SANE Helpline: 1800 187 263 (talk to a mental health professional weekdays, 10am-10pm)
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