‘Connect, Communicate, Care’ is the theme of the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September). These three words are at the heart of suicide prevention and shape the actions we can take, at a local or national level, to reduce suicide.
Studies show that connectedness is an important protective factor for suicide. Connectedness between individuals can lead to increased frequency of social contact, lowered levels of social isolation or loneliness, and an increased number of positive relationships. Yet there are some instances where social connections may not enhance health and well-being. Young people linked to negative peer groups may have an increased risk for suicidal behaviour.
Connecting with persons bereaved by suicide or persons with lived experience of suicidal behaviour is central to suicide prevention. Social connectedness reduces the risk of suicide, so being there for someone who has become disconnected can be a lifesaving act. Individuals, organisations and communities all have a responsibility to help prevent suicide by connecting people at risk with formal and informal supports.
Open communication is vital if we are to reduce suicide. Empowering people to effectively engage with persons at risk of suicide has an important role to play in prevention efforts. Broaching the subject of suicide is difficult, and these sorts of conversations are often avoided. But there are some simple tips that can help. Most of these relate to showing compassion and empathy, and listening in a non-judgemental way.
We need to discuss suicide as we would any other public health issue in order to dispel myths and reduce stigma. Be cautious with your message and ensure that you are safely portraying the subject.
Some quick tips:
- Use every opportunity to increase public awareness of suicide and advocate for suicide prevention.
- Ensure your comments are safe and life-affirming and do not sensationalise suicide.
- Endeavour to increase community understanding of suicide in a safe, positive, and non-alarmist way.
All the connecting and communicating in the world will have no effect without the final ingredient – care. Governments and service providers need to prioritise suicide prevention. Communities have a key role to play in caring for vulnerable persons and those at risk of suicide by effectively supporting their needs. We all need to make the effort and take the time to care for ourselves and those around us.
There are two important initiatives I would like to highlight that demonstrate how we can care for at-risk groups.
People living in rural and remote Australia may experience considerable difficulties and hardship, including financial difficulties and isolation, and they may not have access to support services during tough times. They are more likely to have greater access to means of suicide that lead to immediate death.
Suicide rates in rural and remote areas of Australia are significantly higher than the national average.
The Ripple Effect (STRIDE Project)
The Ripple Effect is an online intervention designed to investigate what works to reduce the self-stigma among males from the farming community, aged 30-64 years, who have been bereaved by suicide, attempted suicide, cared for someone who attempted suicide, have had thoughts of suicide, or been touched by suicide in some other way.
Suicide on the rail network is an alarming issue for those involved. It affects the wider communities and rail industry staff.
There are around 150 suicides on the rail network every year and a further 1000 attempts, nearly half of which result in serious injury. Suicide accounts for two-thirds of all rail fatalities.
The rail industry has been addressing suicide on the network in an attempt to reduce the number of incidents and begin to mitigate the trauma caused to the families, communities and our employees.
The TrackSAFE Foundation is a registered Harm Prevention Charity, established by the Australian Rail Industry in March 2012. TrackSAFE endeavours to reduce near collisions, injuries and fatalities on the rail network resulting from suicide and reckless behaviour. In doing so, TrackSAFE aims to create a better workplace for rail employees.