Youth suicide: ’Fight the cruelty of stigma’
Health experts are encouraging conversations around mental health, urging people to check in on each other amid coronavirus restrictions.
Today is both R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day.
Mum Kim Edgar knows the pain of losing a loved one to suicide - her son, Daniel Henderson, died in August 2018, aged just 17.
Five male secondary students in the Geelong region died by suicide in the four months to mid-June this year.
A coroner is investigating the five deaths as a group.
Ms Edgar has become a passionate advocate for mental health since her son's tragic death, and is in contact with a number of the mums who have lost their boys this year.
"It's just devastating for our region, it really does affect the whole community," Ms Edgar said.
She urged the community to "actively fight the cruelty of stigma". "Ask people if they're OK and really listen," Ms Edgar said.
Jigsaw Corio psychiatrist Dr Bo Egan said it was important to know anyone can start a conversation with someone who may be struggling - you don't need to be a professional.
"Although it may not be easy talking to someone about their mental health, letting them know that you are there to listen can have a positive impact," Dr Egan said.
"It could create an opportunity for a young person to feel comfortable enough to seek help, if needed.
"To help facilitate a conversation, you might consider an environment where the person feels comfortable and relaxed.
"Be mindful that some people may feel more comfortable to have a chat online or through social media rather than face-to-face.
"Rather than starting the conversation with a list of concerns, start with a simple question like 'Are you OK?'"
Dr Egan said R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day were even more important this year.
"This event provides an opportunity to have discussions with young people and check on how they have been doing in light of so many of the challenges that have occurred this year," he said.
"Talking about suicide is challenging for everyone, however raising awareness about youth mental health and suicide is important and is something that everyone in the community can participate in."
"With the limits in social connection, it is more important now than ever to check up on one another.
"Feeling connected may be what's needed to help someone get through a difficult time in their life." Barwon Child, Youth and Family CEO Sandy Morrison reminded the community help is available.
"It is crucial to remember to reach out not only on R U OK? Day, but every day, and to be prepared that, if the answer to 'R U OK?' is 'no', to listen with an open mind, encourage action, and to check in after the initial conversation," he said.
Originally published as 'Fight the cruelty of stigma'