A national priority

IN a world where we can talk about just about anything, where almost no topic remains off-limits, there remains one word our culture still struggles to confront. 

Suicide.

More than 2000 Australians a year take their own lives. And that’s just the figures we can be certain about.

The fact that we can’t even lay our hands on accurate statistics is part of that same problem. Police, emergency services and even the media often avoid mentioning the cause of death out of respect to the loved ones of someone who has taken their life.

It’s a well-intended gesture, sometimes it seems the best cause of action, and most of us could understand the wish to alleviate friends and family of any additional pain. But even avoiding to mention the cause of death, despite the motivation behind it, adds to the stigmatising of the subject, and to a degree clouds the true extent of the problem.

So we start with the figure of about 2000 lives lost per year, which is presumably much lower than the actual figure and is already unacceptably high.

If it was a disease that took so many lives, there’d be countless ads, public awareness campaigns and fund-raising efforts to combat it.

If it was unintentional road-related deaths we’d see thousands spent on extra police, double demerit campaigns and education programs. And every holiday it would be a major talking point in the media, and in all of the parliaments in the land.

But it’s not.

There were about 1000 more reported cases of suicide than fatalities caused by motor vehicle accident in 2010.

Policies to increase awareness and funding to support prevention strategies should be a national priority.

But when was the last time we heard a serious parliamentary debate at state or federal level on the matter?

Males comprised approximately 77 per cent of suicide deaths for 2010 (1816 deaths compared to 545 deaths for females).

The Goulburn community isn’t immune from suicide. How many of us can say that we haven’t been personally affected?

At least two young men took their own lives this year.

Joanne Cunningham, the mother of one of these men, Hugo, was brave enough to speak with us about his tragic loss.

It’s an old adage… parents should not have to bury their children – for any reason. And it’s not just young people. Suicide takes many from us from across the age spectrum. We are a lesser place without each and every one of them and they should still be here with us today.

Locally, we need to talk about suicide more.

We need to impress upon our leaders that it is a priority issue of concern; that more is needed to assist those, particularly young men, experiencing depression or enduring hard times.

Avoiding the subject, stigmatising it or keeping it as a taboo clearly isn’t the answer. 

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