Yesterday was RUOKay Day in Australia, and tomorrow is National Suicide Prevention Day, across many countries, including the US and Australia.
RUOK day's main purpose is to raise awareness of mental health, mental illness prevalence, and to create a conversation with those who we do life with, checking in with them to ask R U OK?
I am sure most of you have heard to figures this week that death by suicide is the number 1 cause of death for our young people, 18 - 35. Our indigenous brothers and sisters are 6 times HIGHER at risk of suicide.
How can it be that our young people are dying by suicide when their lives are just starting? And there is a rise in our elders also dying by suicide!
I do not pretend to know the answers to this multi-layered problem, but I can share MY experiences and observations.
WE ARE SO ISOLATED - whilst we may live our entire days through social media, we are all so alone in our little bubble. We spend our time looking at screens rather than connecting with those next to us.
BULLYING - Unfortunately, bullying doesn't just live in the school ground. It;s ugliness is rampant online, and has no bounds. No age group is immune to bullying, nor creed, religion, race or gender. Its often done in an anonymous manner, which fuels the cruelty as there is no need for the bully to take responsibility for their actions.
STIGMA- Having a mental illness still has a very large stigma around it, so does seeking help for these illnesses and the medication needed by some to keep them pushing through life. We, as a society, don't deny or look twice at someone who needs a puffer if their wheezing and needs help to breathe, nor do we bat an eyelid at the amputee who needs a wheelchair, however needing to see your psychologist because your brain has chemical imbalances causing you to to manage life well is seen as weak??????
LACK OF SUPPORT- Whilst we are starting to have more support around with Lifeline (131114), Kids Helpline, beyond blue, the butterfly foundation, RUOK.org, as well as GP's and social workers being trained into linking symptoms to know how to pick up someone who may be struggling, It's still a challenge for most to find the help they need, when they need it. There just isn't enough government funding to support our mental health systems. Waiting lists are increasing by the moment, with no real solution on the cards.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO KEEP OUR PEOPLE ALIVE?
START A CONVERSATION
- Asking "Are you okay?"
- WAIT and Listen to their response
- ASK for more information, if they aren't okay.
- LISTEN, BE PRESENT, BE PATIENT, BE KIND - DO NOT CUT THEM OFF when they're talking
- AVOID jumping in with solutions to their problems, or riding off how they are feeling.
- YOU CAN ask if they have people that know and support them with what they're going through - YOU CAN ask them if they have thought about calling Lifeline or talking to a counselor about their situation.
- YOU MUST keep checking in with them.
CONNECT with those around us.
ASK OFTEN! Don't just wait for RUOK day to come around again before you ask. Check in with your mates OFTEN.
And if you AREN'T OK if someone asks you,
THAT'S OK TOO, however please REACH OUT. You don't have to divulge your secrets to the world, but just telling someone that you're struggling can be so cathartic and helpful.