The story that emerges is that things have become worse in terms of Australians dying by suicide — which is already the leading cause of death for those between 15 and 44. And that there are thousands of families, friends and work colleagues who at some moment received that horrifying text message or Facebook status post that someone who they love has died by suicide.
Many ask themselves in that moment the same question that the nation has been asking itself this week after learning of these sorrowful stats — why? And, particularly, why this increase in deaths by suicide now?
We live in a time when Australia — its national political ping-pong aside — is envied around the planet for its relative peace and prosperity. While poverty and disadvantage are very real, especially for indigenous Australians, many of us eat better than the kings of less than 150 years ago. Therefore, what accounts for the contrast between our comparative wealth and our crappy well-being? How is it possible that there are now some eight deaths by suicide — one every three hours — each day?
From the perspective of Lifeline, which fields some 2600 calls per day from help-seekers, with about half of those from people in crisis, the answer is that we don’t know. Nor, I would respectfully suggest, does the mental health fraternity; their discipline is necessarily focused on medical factors (e.g. what’s wrong with you?) rather than social or contextual factors (what’s happening for you?).
But there are things that are known and it’s imperative that as a community we act on what Lifeline believes is a national emergency in order to literally save more lives. It’s especially timely as the Federal Government currently authors a suicide prevention flank as part of the 5th National Mental Health Plan.
We know that isolation and loneliness are very significant risk factors in suicidality. Disconnection drives despair, particularly for those who may already be struggling under the weight of a mental illness, depression or anxiety. It’s been suggested that in a digital world — where we physically spend upward of 24 hours per week on-line and countless energy in comparing our regular lives to the curated lives of others — some people become unstuck from the healing glue that binds family and friends together for mutual good.
We know that protective factors — which are defined as “skills, strengths or resources to help people deal more effectively with stressful events” — are vital to suicide prevention. It’s frankly the case that as a society we’re not doing enough on that front, where the ultimate aim should be keeping people from ever needing to call for help. Indeed, federal expenditure for suicide prevention is half the level of federal expenditure for road safety, even though deaths by suicide are double the road toll. That needs to change in the Budget. To read more click here.
The 17th International Mental Health Conference; Guiding the Change will be held at the brand new Sea World Resort Conference Centre on the Gold Coast, QLD from the 11 -12 August 2016.
This conference will bring together leading clinical practitioners, academics, service providers and mental health experts to deliberate and discuss Mental Health issues confronting Australia and New Zealand.
The conference program will be designed to challenge, inspire, demonstrate and encourage participants while facilitating discussion. To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE.