Health issue: Rural men have some of the highest rates of suicide in Australia but there are ways we can help put a stop to the health crisis.The facts are clear: depression and suicide arethriving in regional Australia.
Men in rural locations havea higher rate of suicide than those living inurban areas and farming men had even higher rates.
But there are ways we can help.
Community representatives met in Gunnedah on Friday to discuss such strategies at the Farm-Link suicide prevention program.
University of Newcastle Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health presenter Rachel McLay saidCommonwealth-funded programs like these helped lessen the “stigma and taboo” ofsuicide.
The discussion wasparticularly poignant for a rural location like ours but also the wider community.
“Suicide is growing in our country,” Mrs McLay said.
“We need to have aconversation about it.”
The workshop featured a strong, health and well-being focus, not only to identify risk factors in others but offer those present achance for self-reflection as well.
“We can’t help others until we help ourselves first,” she said.
Three key determinants ofhealth were explored–sleep, nutritionand exercise.
Sleep was described as the“first bell” that someone may be having difficulty with their mental health.
Mrs McLay said the topic of sleep wasalso one of most accessible to bring up in conversation and it wasnot a judgemental subject.
A change in appetite –not eating enough and overindulging could also flag a mental health issue. A difference in the amount of alcoholconsumed was also named as a big contributing factor in nutrition.
Mrs McLay said studies have shown people who drink are more likely to have a mental health problem. Thereverse wasalso true and those with mental issues are more likely to drink.
Workshop participants also learnt the SCARF (suspect, connect, ask, refer, follow-up) action-plan forsuicide prevention.
Connectand let the person who you suspectis thinkingabouttaking their own life, that youhave noticed changes in them and you care.
Ask direct questions but in a way that does not cast judgement such as “are you thinking about talking your own life?”
If the person confirms they have suicidal thoughts, it is important to determine how deeply they have thought about suicide. Ask questions like: “Have you thought about how you would kill yourself”.
Refer the person to relevant support services like Lifeline or call 000 if life is in immediate danger. Follow-up and make sure the person foundthe help they needed.
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