REGIONAL Australians are feeling the ripple effects of suicide at a far higher rate than those who live in the nation's major cities, new research shows.
Almost two in three regional Australians personally know someone who has completed suicide and they are also significantly more likely to be worried about the suicide risk in their communities, according to a Suicide Prevention Australia-commissioned survey. The organisation says this is the first time a number has been linked to the scale of suicide's reach in Australian regional and rural communities.
Lifeline Ballarat program manager Michelle MacGillivray said for each person who dies by suicide this directly affects about 135 people from immediate family to work colleagues and organisational relationships.
Ballarat's male suicide rate is 30 per cent higher than the state average, data from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed in mid-July, with 60 male suicides in Ballarat recorded from 2013 to 2017. Suicide deaths can be complex to gauge due to a lag in coronial findings and, for some deaths, it would always be unclear.
Ms MacGillivray said everyone had a part to play in making a difference on suicide prevention and this started with talking about suicide - not just on World Suicide Prevention Day, which is Tuesday.
"For too long it's been a taboo subject, but we need to bring it out of in the open - out of the shadows, which is what the walk at the weekend does so well symbolically," Ms MacGillivray said. "We need to acknowledge it does have an impact in our communities."
Relationship breakdowns are what many Australian consider to be the biggest risk for suicides in the next decade with 92 per cent of survey respondents saying this was a key reason ahead of drugs and alcohol (67 per cent), financial pressure (64) and social isolation and loneliness (60).
Ms MacGillivray said it was important for communities to recognise a person who dies by suicide does not always have a mental health condition or illness.
"People die by suicide because they're in crisis," Ms MacGillivray said, "...These (risk concerns) are all very big factors. Just being aware of people who are struggling and what's going on in their life at this time is important."
Ms MacGillivray said a starting point to help was to organise a Safe Talk session via Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network. Sessions work through facts of suicide, signs in conversations or behaviours that might indicate suicidal thinking and an invitation to open conversation, how to listen without fear or judgement and help to keep them safe.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, contact Lifeline 13 11 14.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
- Mens line: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
- Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
- Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
- headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
- Solider On: 1300 620 380
- Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
- QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex)
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