by Greg Hire

#ItsOkayToTalk ... It’s such an easy thing to say, but in reality it’s a huge challenge for many individuals. For those that are suffering or going through a personal & painful time or experience, to open up in an instant will definitely be an arduous task.

The #ItsOkayToTalk hashtag campaign led honourably by Luke Ambler, as part of the Andy’s Man Club tagline, has gone viral and the premise behind it is very admirable! The purpose of this hashtag is to ultimately help get guys talking about how they feel - but for me it starts before that. I’ve had a number of individuals tell me they know someone suffering from depression but they are unsure as to how to actually speak to them. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be straight up and use you’re caring instinct- follow your gut and don’t hesitate. Don’t feel like you have to try to immediately find solutions. Telling someone ‘they’ll get over it’ or ‘cheer up, it’ll be fine’ is probably the worst thing you could say; feelings of isolations will more than likely appear – it will not help.

To all those that are posting selfies in support of the #itsokaytotalk campaign, please remember why you are doing it and keep in mind the concept and vision behind it because it can be very powerful if utilised correctly. Many of those posting aren’t aware of the actual numbers presented by Australia – they are ALARMING.

  • There were 2,864 deaths due to suicide in 2014 at a rate of 12.0 per 100,000. This equates to an average of 7.8 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
  • About three quarters of those who died by suicide were male.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are almost twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2014, suicide accounted for 5.2% of all Indigenous deaths compared to 1.8% for non-Indigenous people.

Suicide is leading cause of death for Aussie's under the age of 44 and many more are impacted.

I commend those whose intention was to continue raising awareness surrounding mental health, but to actually talk to someone that may not seem themselves lately may make a huge significance to someone’s life- so go one step further then posting a photo and actually reach out to someone. Photo’s will continue raising awareness but we can ALL make a much more greater impact. For those that have decided to use it a ‘plug’ for their business, or a photo with your top off in a picturesque location to gather more ‘likes’, please do not de-sensitise such a prominent issue in our community.Suicide should not be romanticised.

Let’s help change the face of mental health, and help make this place a little better to live in. How can we start? Well, reach out to a friend and ask them how they’re doing. But really ask. Not a ‘how are you mate?’, but a ‘how are you feeling?’. It could be someone you’ve not spoken to for a while, it could be your best friend. It could be someone you’ve noticed hasn’t seemed their normal selves recently. You don’t need to find answers to their problems.

You need to be there to listen. Reaching out may not even get a reaction at first, but it will plant the seed when they need help and are struggling about where to turn.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 131114 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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