Rural Sector News Suicide — 11 September 2015

SUICIDE is a huge issue in the central west, where an estimated seven people take their lives every week, according to Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson.

Rates of suicide are 3.7 times higher in the country than in urban areas, and the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the statistics is “appalling”.

“We do know statistically that for every completed suicide there are about five attempts,” Mr Ferguson said.

“My best guess in my area, which is Lithgow to Bourke, we’re losing about seven people a week to suicide.”

In a week where R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day coincided, Mr Ferguson said removing the stigma around suicide and mental health was half the battle.

“The reason we talk about it so often is all about helping people overcome stigma,” he said.

“Historically society has been very unkind to people that have suffered some form of head problem, and that’s why people don’t come out and seek help.

“So if we could overcome the problem of stigma then we would largely overcome mental health problems.”

That’s why stories of high-profile people – like Sydney Swans player Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin – battling mental health problems can give local people strength.

“He [Franklin] and people close to him admitted there was a problem and he is now getting help,” Mr Ferguson said.

“The issue we get is lots of people carrying around problems in their head without any relief.

“The reader will not be the first person to identify with some sort of problem, and they won’t be the last. There is nothing special about issues of mental health.

“Forget about road accidents, forget about cancer – suicide is the biggest killer of Australians aged 15 to 44 years.

“Suicide prevention is everybody’s responsibility.”

Mr Ferguson urged people to shake off the stigma and ask for help.

“The real key to this is, put your hand up and seek assistance. If you’re young calling headspace is a good step.

“If you’re still a bit stigmatised ring Lifeline anonymously on 13 11 14 and start a conversation.”

This article first appeared on ‘Parkes Champion Post’ on 11 September 2015.

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