NINE Australians die every day by suicide.
The release of the 2018-2019 cause of death data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed 3,318 lives were lost to suicide - pre-bushfires and before the impacts of COVID.
National mental health and crisis support advocates are calling it a tragedy and demanding more funding urgently from government, business and the community.
John Brogden, chairman of Lifeline Australia, said this year has been even tougher with the telephone support service receiving more calls in 2020 than any other time in its 57 year history.
Mr Brogden called on the community to connect with each other and build resilience.
Di Bannister, telephone crisis team and training manager, said people should never underestimate the power of reaching in to the life of another person. She said that's where hope can be nurtured.
"We are products of what we hear and what we see. It's disappointing these statistics have gone from eight a day to nine. Some might say it's not surprising given the year we've been though, but we should be surprised. Why do we accept it?
"We are putting more resources into helping people, we are being more proactive in getting out there, so let's do more of what works and keep that going instead of accepting we are all going to be worse off because of COVID.
"Some part of a human being thrives on being resilient and this is where our volunteers have risen.They want our community to be safer."
Catherine Vaara, Lifeline Mid Coast CEO, said in these challenging times, people from all walks of life are putting their hand out to reach in and help others.
"I see it everywhere I go. I hear great stories of our human nature and need to connect. Lifeline has done this all along - we make those connections," she said.
Psychologically when people are able to give in a meaningful way to a community, they become more resilient and able to survive. That resilience becomes the ripple effect in a community.
"Statistically seven out of 10 people who experience trauma get through that trauma with no more than help from friends, family and their community. There are a lot of people out there doing OK considering what they've been through," Ms Bannister added.
"Hope is on the ground level - it's the small things. Small things make big change in a person's life. You don't have to give them a million dollars - just go and knock on your neighbour's door and ask them if they are OK. And if they're not, you need to follow up and know what you can do."
Ms Vaara said the stigma around talking about suicide must change. Without those raw and honest and painful questions to someone who might be considering harming themselves, the conversation about hope can't follow.
"We need to let people know that we are hearing them and are acknowledging that it's hard. But particularly during this time where we've had great challenge, in acknowledging the pain, the loss and the grief, we can also bring forward and talk about the unique qualities in this situation," Ms Bannister added.
Kelly Saidey, suicide prevention and community engagement manager, said when people are healthy and well and resilient enough, that is the time for them to 'reach in'.
"That's where hope is. Suicide doesn't stand alone, so support for suicide can't stand alone either."
Lifeline's Eclipse program brings together people who have survived a suicide attempt and offers an opportunity to learn skills that may help participants to cope with feelings and thoughts of suicide, in order to stay safe in the future.
Lifeline's five identified priority areas to reduce suicide are:
- The creation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention and Crisis Support line that is governed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Increasing the capacity for peer support groups facilitated by clinicians for survivors of suicide.
- Increased suicide prevention training within community.
- Support services for those at-risk of suicide post discharge.
- Appropriate facilities and responses for people experiencing suicidal behaviour and presenting to Emergency Departments.
To find out more about the program, contact Lifeline Mid Coast on 6581 2800.
For telephone crisis support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.