Roses in the Ocean - suicide prevention
"There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be"
I went to a dinner on Tuesday night with the Little Black Dress Group (for information see LBDG). I almost cancelled during the day as I had had a dull headache most of the day and had an early start the next morning. But I reminded myself how much I enjoyed these dinners, and the wonderful women I meet, put on a black dress and heels and off I went.
And I am so glad I did. Fate has a way of working in your favour. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: 'Once you've made a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen". I met the most extraordinary and inspirational woman, who reminded me of one of the things I am passionate about - mental health and resilience, particlarly in the legal profession, where the incidence of mental health issues is almost double that of the general population.
Bronwen Edwards has founded Roses in the Ocean, a non profit organisation whose vision is, quite simpy, to prevent suicide. You can read more about Bronwen's story and the work of this foundation on their website. To do this they want to raise awareness, to have conversations , to utilise the wisdom of those affected by suicide, encourage real prevention behaviours, and to raise funds for suicide prevention initiatives.
These dinners have a written agenda - we went off agenda that night as we all listened to Bronwen, and her passion for raising awareness of and preventing suicide. And the universe will work in Bronwen's favour with so many people now willing to help and put her in touch with others who can help as well.
In 2011 (the latest published statistics I could find) there were 2273 suicides in Australia, 76% of whom were male. That was almost 7 EVERY day of that year. Bronwen tells me that the number is now 7 or more a day. I think you'll agree that is far too many people taking their own lives.
I teach resilience and mental health awareness to law students about to embark on their legal careers, through the College of Law. When I talk about suicide (too briefly I now think), I tell them that one of the best ways to prevent suicide is to open up a conversation with the person you think might be struggling, and just simply ask 'have you thought about taking your own life?'. In every class most students looks horrified and I ask 'are you worried about being wrong?'. The answer is always yes.
To this I respond 'I would rather be wrong, and risk embarrassment, than not ask the question at all'. I have asked that question four times in my career - so far two people have responded that yes they have thought about it. They did not take their own lives - I don't know if they had the resources or an actual plan to do it, but having someone to open up to about it helped. They got help and we started a conversation about what led them to that point. I am not a professional counsellor, nor is it my job to be a de facto psychiatrist or psychologist - but I know where to go to get information to help people, and we can all take responsibility for that. The first step is to listen, non judgementally, and give them the information they need on where to go to get help.
A lot of people will pronounce that suicide is a selfish act - far from it. Those who take their own lives have usually got to a point where they think their families, friends and the world in general, would be better off without them, and that they're doing everyone a favour. We can all take a chance for turning that perception around.
Every person you meet might be struggling and fighting an internal battle.
Here are some resources that might help someone close to you, as well as Roses in the Ocean:
Lifeline - 13 11 14 - crisis support
Black Dog Institute - for information, and for organisations, assistance with material for training
Beyond Blue - for information, and for organisations, assistance with material for training
Centre for Clinical Intervention - for information, and free downloadable fact sheets, and self directed work
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467 - crisis support
Reachout - online support and education