Sadly, suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 441. Suicide impacts not only the person who has taken their life, but all of those they’ve left behind—family members, friends, neighbours, classmates and coworkers. And it’s heartbreaking to know that with the right support, it is preventable.
Since this can be a difficult subject to discuss, let this be a safe space to explore it further without shame or fear. We encourage you to take as much time as you need to read this article and learn about the supports available and people you can turn to for help.
Signs of suicidal thoughts
How do you know if someone is considering suicide? People thinking about suicide may not talk about it openly, but you may notice changes that concern you. They may be sad, irritable and emotional or otherwise quiet and withdrawn and have changes in sleep or appetite. They may be more vulnerable if there have been recent traumas or losses such as serious illness or a relationship break up. People may express thoughts that they cannot go on, feel hopeless or talk about being a burden to others. Any comments about wanting to die or kill oneself should be taken seriously.
Some of the warning signs may seem obvious, but others are more subtle. Take a look at the behavioural signs listed below, as highlighted by the Black Dog Institute2.
• sleep changes (too much sleep or too little)
• withdrawing from family and friends
• loss of interest in things
• changes in eating
• irritability, being moody or easily upset
• self-harming (e.g. cutting)
• putting affairs in order, giving things away, saying goodbyes, writing suicide notes or goodbye letters
• risky behaviour (e.g. consuming excessive alcohol or other drug use)
• decreased academic or work performance
• mentioning or joking about suicide, death or dying
While some of these signs may seem minor and are common with other emotional and mental health conditions, they all deserve attention.
Emily, aged in her 30s, was experiencing low energy and motivation as well as impaired concentration at home and at work. She was experiencing panic attacks and suicidal ideas before she reached out to Teladoc Health.
Emily received a comprehensive report of her mental health condition and options to commence treatment. “It was great to receive support and I feel like I am finally going somewhere. Speaking virtually with an expert was super easy because I don’t feel like going out. I can now move forward and get the help I need”.
How to help someone thinking about suicide
If you think someone is in danger of committing suicide, Lifeline3 recommends you follow these steps:
• Listen to them and ask if they are okay. Make time to hear them out, acknowledge their struggle and encourage them to keep talking.
• Encourage them to seek help wherever they feel most comfortable. This might be their GP, family or friend, religious or community leader, or anyone they feel they can trust.
• Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. It needs to be a direct question that can’t be misinterpreted such as ‘Are you having thoughts of suicide?’
• If they are thinking about taking their own life, encourage them to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 – or you can reach out on their behalf. If you are worried about their immediate safety, contact emergency services on 000.
“If you are worried that someone might be having suicidal thoughts, it is important to ask them if that has been on their mind and if they would like to talk about it. Raising this issue will not put the idea in their head. It will help them a great deal to listen nonjudgmentally, with empathy and offer time and support” adds Dr Lorelle Drew, Teladoc Health Consultant Psychiatrist.
How to help yourself if you’re thinking about suicide
First, know that you are worth saving. You’ll probably never fully realise how many people you’ve touched in a positive way throughout your life. You deserve to live—no matter how badly you feel. You are loved and cared for in ways you may not recognise right now.
Talking to someone is very important. Whether it be a GP or mental health expert, family or friends, a teacher of coach, a colleague or community leader.
Expressing your feelings and talking to someone is a very helpful first step but if you feel you’ve run out of options, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
HIF Mental Health Navigator by Teladoc Health is here to help
Whether you suffer from depression or just need to talk with someone about your situation, HIF Mental Health Navigator by Teladoc Health can help. When you reach out to our experienced team, you’ll be met with empathy, compassion, kindness and understanding.
Please note, this not an emergency service. If you, or someone you know are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of self-harm, call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you require immediate mental health support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 OR if you, or someone you know are in immediate danger, call emergency services urgently on 000.
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Suicide and self-harm monitoring 2022.
2 Black Dog Institute Australia
3 Lifeline Australia
If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical- or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read. The use of any information provided is solely at your own risk.