BY BEN HENNESSY
Australians are unaware of the implications suicide has on the community, according to a national report.
The report commissioned by the Community Affairs Reference Committee found that a lack of awareness resulted in “damaging” misconceptions about suicide.
Suicide Prevention Australia head Ryan McGlaughlin said the stigma surrounding suicide was a worrying trend.
“I think everyone knows somebody who has attempted suicide,” he said.
“We haven’t yet grown up as a community to be able to actually address help-seeking and stigma-reduction.”
Mr McGlaughlin said Australian men were particularly apprehensive when it came to talking about suicide.
“Men within Australian culture are very reluctant to seek help,” he said. “We’ve got to change that paradigm so that men can still be considered strong if they are actually help-seeking.”
Submissions to the committee revealed a lack of awareness and understanding in key professional areas. The report recommended that staff in primary care, law enforcement and emergency services received increased suicide risk assessment training. Mr McGlaughlin said the recommendation was a step in the right direction but more was needed.
“I was staggered to hear that of our first respondents such as police and ambulance only about 10 per cent had training with suicide risk assessment,” he said.
“We need to push the government to take up recommendations surrounding national training.”
A Salvation Army submission found that 24 per cent of people surveyed did not know of any services provided for people who were suicidal.
Mental health nurse Chris Mather said the figures were concerning.
“Mental health services are not overly talked about in the community and a lot of people are not willing to enter into mental health services.”
Mr Mather said the community still didn’t recognise mental illness as an actual health condition.
“When someone has a physical illness they can recognise the symptom. But when someone’s depressed or anxious they don’t recognise it as something that should be attended to,” he said.
Mr Mather said the best thing someone could do for a friend or family member they suspected of suffering some kind of mental illness was to talk to them about their issue. “No-one can really do anything to help them unless they are willing to address [their illness] themselves,” he said.
Published in the Western Independent October 2010