COMBATING a 10-year spike in suicide deaths will require a community-led response, Riverina mental health advocates have said.
It comes after the Murrumbidgee was one of four at-risk NSW regions selected for an aggressive suicide prevention program in August.
Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show suicide deaths is at a 10 year high, with loss of life from intentional self-harm three times more likely to occur in men than women.
Wantabadgery farmer Chris Wilson suffered from often debilitating depression for close to 15 years, stemming from unresolved grief after his younger brother died in a farm machinery accident. The founder of Riverina Bluebell came dangerously close to taking his own life before his sister intervened and he sought help.
“A big part of our conversation now is to let the rest of the community know that mental illness is not contagious, and that asking someone ‘are you ok?’ is really important,” Mr Wilson said.
“You won’t catch anything if you ask someone ‘are you ok?’ but you might just catch a life.”
Griffith Suicide Prevention and Support Group’s Val Woodland said there was also evidence that rates of suicide in country areas had increased tenfold over the past 40 years.
“Anxiety and stress tend to be a huge factors these days, the pressures of life are a lot more intense,” she said. “People sometimes can’t see a way forward.”
Schizophrenia Fellowship regional manager Michele Safferty said communities should look to provide the same show of support that they would give if the person died.
“I went to a funeral last year for the suicide of a young person, it was quite extraordinary the number of people who attended the funeral,” she said.
“There’s two messages in that - people who are feeling suicidal should reach out for support …. and for people in the community to show as much support as they would in attending a funeral.”
Suicide Prevention and Support Group 1300 133 911
Lifeline 13 11 14
AccessLine 1800 800 944