By Nigel Gladstone, Hornsby Advocate
A seven-year mission to take the “scary out of suicide” for parents of teens at north shore public high schools was realised on Saturday at Asquith Girls High.
Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury volunteers Di Fletcher and Denny Woodburn presented the safeTALK suicide awareness program for the first time at a state school in the area to parents and relatives of students from Asquith Girls High, Asquith Boys High and St Ives High.
Suicides in Australia are higher than they’ve ever been and it looks like many of these kids are not being reached, Ms Fletcher said.
“Suicides are occurring in schools on the north shore and not being publicised, it should be an open topic,” Ms Fletcher said “Twice as many people die by suicide as from road accidents, but how often do we see messages about preventing suicide?
“School is the ideal place to reach them, it is such a tragedy to us that something that is preventable is not being addressed.”
Learning how to recognise signs of suicide and where to get help is the first step to fight rising suicide rates, Ms Fletcher said.
The three hour program Asquith covered topics including recognising signs of suicidality, how to start a conversation with someone who may be depressed or feeling suicidal, how to get them to a safe place and seeking treatment.
“The consequences of ignoring the signs or not recognising ‘invitations’ for help — which can be very subtle and hard to pick-up, or just feeling too embarrassed to talk about it — can be devastating and tragic,” she said.
“From speaking to people on the phones (at Lifeline) they know something is going on with their kids and they don’t know what to do and this training helps fix that.”
The reasons for youth suicide are complex and multi-layered, and there are a “multiplicity of causes”, she said.
“Years ago if you were bullied at school it would stop at the front door, when you got home you were safe, but now it’s continuous — night and day — it never stops as kids are constantly on various forms of media,” Ms Fletcher, 65, said.
“Also the pressure of families has changed and no longer does a village bring up the child.”
Feedback from parents on Saturday included that it was “a relief to know what to do if it (suicide) confronts me again”. Another parent said the program “takes the ‘scary’ out of suicide” discussions, while another said “having recently experienced a child expressing suicidal thoughts I now feel less helpless in helping them deal with these thoughts”.
“Denny and I are hoping that this will be the first of many talks to parents/teachers at schools.’’
For help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.