In 2017, 3128 Australians took their own life. Alarmingly, that was also an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. Of them, 2348 deaths were male, more than three times their female counterparts.
For all that masculinity is, men are still struggling to cope.
Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th and R U Okay Day on September 12th, we spoke to international author and speaker Dr. Dain Heer who is encouraging people from every culture, country, age and social strata of society to embrace their greatness through his initiative Access Consciousness.
We all want to help someone who may be struggling. But unfortunately, starting the conversation is not always easy. The best place to start? Opening communication channels, Heer encourages.
“Invite them out for a drink, grab a coffee or a beer, make it super low key, not like you are there trying to solve their life but you are just there,” Heer tells Men’s Health.
“Don’t require them to talk but let them know they can. Also let them know if you went through sadness, depression or felt like you were not as happy as you would like. Talking to them about how your life is not perfect either and things have been changing, allows them to know things can get better for them too.”
But before you do start the conversation, you need to spot the signs that your friend may not be handling things as well as they like. Heer suggests that any change in their normal demeanour can signal that they may be facing inner turmoil.
“One sign is withdrawal from you and things they normally do,” Heer explains. “Showing up late for work when they don’t normally, their productivity may be going down and also their energy levels are low. And their levels of joy seems to be non-existence.”
When you do notice some changes in their behaviour, it’s important to check-in on them. Ask them questions and see what’s going on in their world.
“Engage them in a conversation, one of the reasons people get into depression is that they feel isolated. Let them know they are not alone.
“Talk to them, ask them questions: What is going on? How are you? Are you okay? What can I contribute to you? As far as supporting them, if they open up, let them know you’re there and will listen with a non-judgmental ear.”
“A lot of people feel judged for their choices and this leads to depression so making sure you are sitting their listening with no judgment is important.”
For many sufferers, they’ll often think they need to hide some of the issues they’re dealing with. “A lot of times they feel they have secrets they need to keep, including the depression, so just by letting them unload, you can bring a lot of lightness to the situation.”
However, supporting someone who’s not coping is not as easy as checking-in. For many, they can feel like you’re smothering or patronising them. Heer says it’s important to realise some people don’t want to be helped and instead, it’s your job to let them know you are available.
“Our job is to empower them to know they have a different choice,” he says. ” You are not a superhero but you are a person who has lived and had experiences and gotten some things right and wrong and are there to contribute.”
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, others are afraid to open up because they don’t want to pester you. Heer recommends reassuring them by explaining you’ve experienced similar and as a result, you would be happy to lend them an ear.
Unfortunately, offering support isn’t enough is all instances of depression. There will be times where you need to realise that professionals need intervene – if you do notice they threaten suicide, threaten harm to other people or if they seem to be so withdrawn that they are not present any more, it’s time to seek immediate medical help.
This week is a timely reminder to check-in with a mate and ask them: Are you okay?
If depression is affecting your life or you need someone to talk to, please do not suffer in silence. Support is available here.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyondblue: 1300 224 636