• John M Blythe

Talking openly about suicide!

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians. About 350 young people aged 15–24 take their own lives every year – that’s more than die on the roads! For every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 more attempts. Australia is currently experiencing a rise in the already tragic number of attempted and actual suicides in people under 25-years of age. Getting to a level of hopelessness that leads to thoughts of suicide is usually based on a perceived problem which seems unfixable to the young person.

Some common examples are: - Ongoing Depression and mental health conditions - Systemic bullying (face-to-face and/or online) - Emerging conflicts with sexuality (LGBT young people are 5-7 times more likely to attempt suicide) - Being from a minority culture that experiences trauma (e.g., Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander) - Breakdown of relationships (which have become “all important” to the young person, but adults may have little knowledge about) - Having a disability or ongoing physical illness - Feeling overwhelmed by academic pressure and expectations - Having attempted suicide before - Being a close contact of a person who has committed suicide - When a young person feels that the burdens they carry will not be understood, accepted or acknowledged then they often feel they have no better choice than “to just not wake up tomorrow.”

Signs to be alert for: - Withdrawal from family and friends (self-isolating) - Feeling hopeless about the future (constant pessimistic statements about life) - Feeling “no one will understand” or “I can never talk about this” Showing a drastic change in mood or behaviour - Talking about dying a lot, or making arrangements for when they are dead - Possessing weapons, sharp objects or medications not prescribed for them - Self-harming (such as cutting their skin) - Using alcohol or illicit drugs

What adults can do?: - Suicide should not be a taboo topic which we avoid talking about. Letting young people know we are aware of the issue and can be trusted to talk about it is an important safeguard. - Take any issue facing a young person as seriously as they do: Avoid minimising it and making comments like “it’s not as big a deal as you think,” or “it will blow over,” because the young person has already decided this is not true and we just don’t understand (and never will). - Try to keep your worldview separate to the young persons: Often a young person feels that their inner changes will never be acceptable. This can include having different emerging beliefs about their culture, religion, sexuality, future or life choices. They may already believe “who they are” will be unacceptable in their family or social system. - Realise that the teen and young-adult years can be confusing and turbulent times for many young people. The brain is not fully matured and the ability to think beyond the current crisis and see outcomes for the long-term is limited. Create a culture of hope about the future, even when going through a current crisis or challenge. - Seek professional assistance from your GP and a child psychologist who can assess the young person’s thinking and allow them to talk about things openly, which they may feel no one else will understand.

Beyond Now is an easy-to-use suicide safety planning app for smartphones. You can download it from Beyond Blue.

John M. Blythe John Blythe Child Psychology Clinics Blacktown-Macarthur-Nepean (02) 9622 9610