Warning: This story discusses suicides and suicide ideation, which might be distressing for some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

Everyday in Australia, nine people take their own lives and over 65,000 attempt suicide each year; a statistic Ian Roberts calls “terrifying.”  

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Roberts, who made headlines as the first rugby player in the NRL to come out,  knows it can be hard to ask for help. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and Roberts wants to spread the message that, “It’s ok to reach out.” 

A Call That Would Change His Life

A 2021 report by LGBTIQ+ Health Australia stated that, “Compared to the  general population, LGBTIQ+ people are more likely to attempt suicide,” as  well as being more likely to have suicidal thoughts and engage in self-harm.  

Twenty years ago during a particularly rough period in his life, Roberts took the first step on a path to self-recovery and healing. He called Lifeline. He  didn’t know how profoundly that call would affect his life. 

Roberts remembers the feelings of isolation and worthlessness which led  him to reach out for help. 

“I was just in a really dark place. I just felt desperate. I had really bad thoughts going through my head. I had been in a state of depression for  months. I just wanted to talk to someone. Even though I wasn’t on my own; I was on my own. It was just one of those situations where you can be lonely in a room full of people,”  Roberts told Star Observer.

“I don’t know how serious my suicidal thoughts were back then, but I was  feeling at a point where I didn’t have a sense of worth. I felt like I had been  failing everyone, failing myself. I had just come out of a long-term  relationship. I was self-medicating. It was a whole scenario of things that had  just escalated.” 

“All I knew is I was desperate…I wanted the pain to stop. I just wanted someone to talk to, someone who wasn’t going to judge…It sounds like such a basic service, but it’s such an essential service,” Roberts said. 

Someone Was Listening And Not Judging

“They were just really open to what I was saying, and the way I was feeling. I  wasn’t being judged and they just made me feel like it is ok in life sometimes to be feeling like this. It was a relief that someone was willing to listen to me  and not judge me.” 

It wasn’t the first time Roberts had reached out to Lifeline for help. The first  time he called he had just made a momentous decision.  

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“It was just after I’d come out and I just wanted to talk to someone who  didn’t really know me. I wasn’t feeling good about myself. At the time it felt  like I was just losing everything. I was losing my sanity, I was losing my life, I  was losing my own sense of worth, I was losing my family, my partner. The call to Lifeline helped change my perspective at that moment.” 

“It was someone caring, someone being able to talk to you. It doesn’t sound  like much, but it is…I felt like I had options. I had a sense of worth again,”  said Roberts.  

Reach Out

Today, Roberts is passionate about encouraging others to reach out and ask  for help. “The conversation needs to be present all the time,” he said. “It’s  ok to have negative thoughts and it’s ok to talk about them as well…I  personally know it can make all the difference in a really bad situation.” 

Every 30 seconds someone in Australia calls Lifeline for help. The national  charity, which receives over one million contacts a year though phone, text  and online support, provides 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. 

Lifeline has experienced a 25 percent increase in calls since the  current COVID-19 lockdowns have taken effect.  

Lifeline is marking World Suicide Prevention Day through its annual Out Of  The Shadows event.

Lifeline will be hosting a virtual reflective garden to  encourage online participation through a digital space where visitors can  plant a flower and leave a personalised message of remembrance or support  for others. The aim of the event is to share hope for Australians struggling  with their mental health and for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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