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COLUMN: If you see something, say something
I am writing to draw people’s attention to the fact that in Australia more people die every year from suicide than as a result of road accidents, and on average every week around 44 people take their lives, 33 of them are men.
We know that untreated depression is a major risk factor for suicide, yet over half of the people who have depression don’t seek help for it. If you don’t take action to get diagnosed, you can’t be treated and you risk the illness becoming disabling.
Often, the reason people don’t take action is because of stigma. They’re ashamed or embarrassed about not being able manage. They worry that other people will think they’re weak or they will let down their families if they admit to being distressed and not being able to cope. Depression is a treatable illness like asthma or diabetes and you wouldn’t expect those illnesses to get better by themselves.
To someone with depression, suicide can seem like a reasonable option. To their distorted way of thinking,sometimes it’s a way of ending their pain or relieving their family of the burden they think they’ve become. Obviously, this is not true.
That’s why it’s so important that everyone knows the signs and symptoms of depression. If someone is behaving out of the ordinary, has become withdrawn or seems down all the time, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re OK. And if your gut instinct is that they need help, be persistent. Asking if someone has suicidal thoughts won’t make a person take his or her own life, but it may just be the catalyst that encourages someone to share how they are feeling and seek the support they need.
Most suicides are preventable and we all have a role to play in reducing the stigma and discrimination that stops people asking for help. Don’t worry that you’ll say the wrong thing, just say something. It could help save a life.
Kate Carnell AO
INFO: September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide contact LifeLine Australia on 13 11 14.