Starting a conversation with a workmate, friend or family member could change their life and outlook for the better.
Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation R U OK? encourages everyone to notice the signs of mental health struggle in friends, family and colleagues on September 14.
The charity aims to create a more connected world and raise awareness of mental health, while encouraging people to start a conversation with those closest to them who may be struggling with the pressures of life.
She reiterated that mental health and suicide prevalence is at a peak across the nation across a range of ages and demographics. “Nearly half the people in our country will experience a mental health problem at some stage in their lives,” Ms Harrison explained.
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44, a fact that Ms Harrison recalls on repeat in her suicide prevention charity.
“Statistics aside, there are so many people in our community struggling, and perhaps one of the greatest ways to be able to support our friends is to ask how they are, really listen to the answer, and hold space for them without judgement,” she said.
“Sometimes all someone needs is someone who asks the question, and who really cares,” she said.
Openly talking about mental health can help prevent suicide and reduce the stigma around mental and emotional health.
“Having open conversations about mental health, mental illness and suicide helps to decrease the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and makes it a part of normal everyday life so that those struggling feel like they can access help without shame.
“Without these open discussions, many avoid reaching out for help in fear of what other people will think of them.”
Some of the signs to look out for to recognise if someone is not mentally OK include noticing a change in mood, addictive behaviour, or withdrawal from social activities.
“Withdrawing from friends and activities is a big one, a change in mood, and an increase in drug and alcohol use can also be a sign that someone is struggling,” Ms Harrison explained.
She added that it’s important to check on your strong friends, family members and colleagues, too, as they may be good at masking their symptoms or problems.
“Whilst these are some common warning signs, I would encourage everyone to check in on a friend when they sense something might not be right, regardless of whether they are displaying any common warning signs or not.”
R U OK? encourages people to use these four steps to have a conversation that could change a life:
- Ask R U OK?
- Encourage action
- Check in
Contact Lifeline for crisis support on 13 11 14.