Opinion Stigma Reduction — 10 March 2016

A suicide prevention group is taking a direct approach in its training in the agriculture sector.

Mates in Construction (MIC) has trained almost 100,000 people across Australia in suicide prevention.

The not-for-profit group visited the south-east of South Australia as part of the South Australian State Government’s drought response package.

MIC believes open dialogue about suicide and mental health is crucial in fighting the 2864 people who die each year in Australia from intentional self-harm.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicated there has been a 13.5 per cent increase in suicides from 2013-2014.

Field officer for MIC, Bob Clifford said directly asking someone if they have thought about taking their own life is much better than beating around the bush.

“Highly important to ask the question, how are you travelling and then listen carefully to what’s being said.”

Mr Clifford said non-judgemental listening was exceedingly important when communicating with someone you think might be struggling.

“We are not the professionals that are actually going to fix the problem,” he said.

“We are people who deeply care about our friends, our relatives.”

What do men in agriculture think about talking suicide?

Livestock agent trainee Hamish Jurgs said there was a drastic difference in how men and women dealt with their feelings.

He believed this could be why men were almost three times more likely to take their own life, compared with women.

“Through openness with their friends and family [women] can talk through things and work it out,” he said.

“Whereas, men tend to hold it close to their chest and not talk and just worry about other things, rather than themselves,”

Mr Jurgs said he was amazed at MIC’s advice to ask people straight out if they were thinking about suicide.

“That surprised me how they work toward that approach, rather than just saying ‘hey how you going?’,” he said.

An agribusiness consultant’s observations.

Naracoorte agribusiness consultant, Ken Solly said drought in the south-east of South Australia was weighing heavily on the mental health of the community.

“I’ve actually seen some cases of people I thought were extremely stable people,” he said.

“Having two poor years one on top of another, a lot of people don’t know how they will handle debt until they have actually taken it on.”

Mr Solly said people needed to realise the support that existed within the community.

“There are people in this society who care and are quite skilled in being able to help you through it,” he said.

This article first appeared on ‘ABC Rural’ on 9 March 2016.


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