Mental health awareness is much greater now than ever before.
Initiatives such as R U OK Day help spread the message we need to reach out to friends and family who may be struggling.
However, the recent suicides of prominent people such a Kate Space and Anthony Bourdain really bring home the fact that, while people might outwardly seem to be fine, they in actual fact are fighting a battle no one else can see.
According to ABS data, 3 million Australians suffer with depression or anxiety. Of those, only 35% access treatment. Alarmingly, it is estimated one in 5 kids will experience depression by the time they are 18 years old.
Further more, an average of EIGHT Australians take their own lives every day – that’s 3000 people a year! It is the leading cause of death for males and females aged between 15-44years.
That’s our kids, our brothers, our sisters and our friends, all potentially at risk around us.
More alarming mental health statistics can be found here.
So what can we do?
Knowing how to help someone we suspect might be depressed or struggling can be hard. Especially if it is a child, close relative or friend. The good news is there are a multitude of resources out there to help.
Here are the key things to remember:
Trust your gut
When someone is suffering from a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression they can hide it well. Some people don’t like discussing these things for personal or cultural reasons. Others may feel ashamed or don’t want to burden others. Educate yourself on signs and symptoms and trust your instincts when you feel something isn’t right.
Start the conversation
It can be hard to know how to get someone to open up about their feelings, especially if they try to deny there is a problem. Beyond Blue has some great tips here about talking to someone you are worried about. Headspace also has some great information on talking to children about mental health.
Let them know you are there for them
Listen without judgement and don’t minimise their feelings or try to cheer them up. It’s our natural instinct to do these things but often it isn’t helpful. What they really need is to know you are there for them, that they are important to you and they are not alone.
Help them seek support
This can be the hardest step for many people, as the statistics above indicate. Help link them with professional services and maybe even go along as a support person if you are up to it. Their GP is usually the best first port of call but helplines (listed below) can also be a good start for people not ready to talk to someone face to face. If your loved one is a child, try talking to the school counsellor or an organisation like Headspace.
Take any mention of suicide seriously
Warning signs can include statements like “You’d be better of without me” or frequently talking about death. Engaging in risky behaviours or acting out of character can be other signs, especially for young people. Experts recommend calmly asking the person if they have any suicidal feelings. If they say yes, ask if they have a plan and timeframe. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to help them. You can read more about responding to warning signs here.
Look after yourself
You can’t support another person if you aren’t okay yourself. It can be very emotionally draining to be there for someone during such a difficult time. Set boundaries, make sure you have your own supports in place and take care of yourself.
24 Hr Helplines
- Lifeline Australia– 13 11 14
- Lifeline New Zealand– 0800 543 354
- Kids Helpline– 1800 55 1800
- MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
- Suicide Call Back Service– 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue– 1300 22 4636
- Veterans and Veterans’ Families Counselling Service– 1800 011 046