Each suicide is not only a personal tragedy but dramatically affects the lives of families. With one person reportedly suiciding every 40 seconds around our world, suicide has become a public health issue. With each suicide it is estimated that there are scores of attempted suicides and tens of thousands of intentional self-harm hospitalisations.
According to the World Health Organisation, globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death of people aged 15 to 30 years.
In Australia, suicide is a leading cause of death, particularly among the descendants of its First Peoples. With Australia, there are on average seven suicides a day. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth are dying by suicide at among the world’s highest rates.
Risk factors are many but in the end there is a breakdown in oneself to deal with what have become chronic life stresses. But among different cultures these life stresses are perceived differently, with varying degrees of priorities and expectations around them, and therefore suicidal ideation rates and suicide rates vary significantly.
Another major risk factor that can be demonstrated is that within countries with minorities that experience discrimination, within these minorities there are higher rates of suicidal ideation and of suicide.
If we can see and demonstrate these risk factors and causes to suicidal ideation and suicide then it is logical to argue that we can do something about reducing the prevalence of suicidal ideation and reduce the incidence of suicide. But despite all the sectors of society that are required to intertwine and work to educate, to assist and to support others, foremost we need the media and the politic of the nation to establish the foundations of suicide prevention. We must relentlessly strive for this but we must not place all our expectations in this hope.
Suicide prevention is made up of education, of the normative that should make up a healthy life, of establishing prevention, intervention and postvention practices and services on a 24/7 basis. Postvention is also a process of prevention – tackling familial and community distress and the contagion effect. Improving a community’s social health and wealth is predominately a governmental deed, a political deed but in educating into a community a contextual sense of the meanings of life, of well balanced expectations of what it means to have a good life, of understanding attainable goals and in putting paid to the pernicious notions of ‘failure’, are deeds that can be achieved by community settings and institutions. This doesn’t happen overnight but neither does it take too long to make a real difference once these community settings and localised institutions are empowered.
Social change is often dependent on political will but often the political will is a reductionist one or totally skewed to the absurd but this dangerous dependency on the political will of a nation can be defied and social strategies can be managed by the arbiters of local level knowledge and influence.
The majority of premature and unnatural deaths, which include, suicide are indeed preventable, and research evidences this. Despite all this, low-cost education, prevention and intervention are the low end of the scale of priorities for governments. This is a tragedy. Suicide prevention must be a community’s highest priority and we can work to this, we can roll this out, because where this has occurred, suicidal ideation and suicide rates have dramatically decreased. With governments it is a tougher gig, but one that we have to keep at and with the more communities empowered the voices grow and hence we have the movement towards a cultural shift, and well, governments do tend to respond to these cultural shifts.
It is important to listen to people. It is imperative. It is a dangerous myth that people who talk about suicide do not mean to do it. For goodness sake, people who talk about suicide are in trouble, they are screaming out for help. People need people. Suicidal ideation journeys grief, anguish, anxiety, depressions, the sense of failure, identity crises, the sense of hopelessness. The majority of people who are talking about ending their lives are thinking about doing this. There needs to be calm and patience but concomitant with a sense of urgency, even if this means just being there, even if a word is not shared – but people need people. We may not get our words right but what we must get right is that the other understands, even in any silence, that we are there for them.
In vulnerable communities, or right down to vulnerable members in family units, we need to empower a 24/7 conduit to those whom can help, support, educate, improve and save lives. I will be writing near daily on the ways forward. We have a duty to one another to immerse ourselves in what it takes to sustain a healthier and happier society.
Governments must take note of the above, because once they realise the importance of what I am writing about, maybe then more within governments will prioritise the high stake issues ahead of the lower stake ones.
Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline, 13 11 14, provides counselling and advice to anyone in crisis.More reading and links:
Kirstie Parker, Mick Gooda say enough of fine words – close the gap a big fat lie