Today is the last day of November. This makes it the last day of spring, the last day of Movember, and 100 days since my little brother passed away from suicide.
As a community we have endured a month of bad facial hair. However, as men and women around the country heave a great sigh of relief as these mos are shaved off, every mo I have seen has been a ray of sunshine and hope to me. I’ve laughed at the bad mos, I’ve admired a great mo. But what it really means is that men are showing they care. Through using their face as a billboard, men around the country have raised awareness about mental health and suicide prevention in our community.
My brother was one of the more than 3000 people who die by suicide in Australia each year. That number is more than double the national road toll.
As someone who’s had a loved one die by suicide, I can promise you the shock is enormous. My world has gone into a tailspin. My little brother, aged just 29, is no longer here. The decades of life and memories I thought we still had to come will never be. It’s a tragedy that 3000 other families and thousands upon thousands of friends have experienced in this past year. Through fundraisers such as Movember, awareness about good mental health is high. Social media is flooded with messages that it's OK to talk, with phone numbers where support can be provided. More and more people are openly talking about the importance of good mental health. This is wonderful.
But, it's time we changed the conversation from awareness to one of education. Especially what we can do when someone we care about isn't mentally well. At the moment, the conversation is about how you can help yourself. Through my family's experience, when you become so mentally unwell, you don't want to seek help on your own accord.
This is where you, as a friend or loved one, can and must step in. If you are worried about a friend or loved one, you have power to do something. You can make an appointment for your loved one to see a doctor, or if you have access to an employee assistance program, to see a psychologist. If you are concerned about the welfare of someone, you can request to the authorities that they are admitted to hospital. You can request the police conduct a welfare check.
It's time we change the conversation. It's time we start educating that as a community we hold power. We are not helpless to watch a loved one spiral into a dark place.
The crisis telephone services provided by LifeLine are amazing. They help people through tough times every day. BeyondBlue also has a telephone support line. This support line is for those who are mentally unwell and for those who are supporting the mentally unwell. These organisations help people like my family, and maybe your family, every day. BeyondBlue’s website also clearly outlines how we can support those who are mentally unwell.
I wish every day that my little brother, my funny, witty, smart, happy, and adored son, ‘bro’, grandson, nephew, best friend, and work mate was here.
It is my desire that we recognise that while everyone is responsible for their own health, when someone is mentally unwell, sometimes they need someone to show them we care enough to help, to give them the tools to get on the path to good mental health.