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Mental health expert encourages conversation to help prevent suicide


A leading Sunshine Coast psychiatrist, Dr Paul Cadzow, is encouraging people to start a conversation that could save a life on RUOK? Day (8 September) and every day of the year.

Dr Cadzow, the Director of Psychiatry at The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital’s Cooinda Mental Health Service, said that by asking the question you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up.

“While ‘Are you okay?’ is a very simple question, if you don’t ask, you don’t stand a chance of having a conversation and intervening if someone you know is struggling,” Dr Cadzow said.

“I know a number of patients who have shared experiences with me of a time in their life when they were deeply troubled and made the decision to end their life but a seemingly small gesture from someone who reached out to them saved their life,” he said.

RUOK? Day is closely aligned with World Suicide Prevention Day which is on 10 September. In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for men and women between the ages of 15-44. The annual number of deaths by suicide in Australia is around 2,500 each year, almost 50 per week. An estimated 65,000 people plan or attempt to take their life each year.

“Many people are under the misconception that by broaching the subject of suicide, it may ‘plant the seed’ and result in someone suiciding when quite the opposite is true,” Dr Cadzow said.

Dr Cadzow said there are a number of issues that people in regional areas face that can be factors if someone is at risk of suicide, particularly young people.

“Here on the Sunshine Coast we have issues such as high youth unemployment, accommodation shortages, and drug and alcohol dependency – unlike some more remote areas, we have largely been protected from the mining downturn,” Dr Cadzow said.

“Young people are also experiencing relationship problems with parents and partners and it can be a very challenging time in their life,” he said.

“While cyber bullying in our increasingly connected world is often talked about as an issue for many young people, by the same token many benefit from the support and camaraderie provided in online gaming environments for example.”

“The best way of protecting young people from suicide is by supporting and encouraging them to have a high level of connectivity with their peer groups, adults in their life and academic and sporting groups.”

“Generally speaking, signs to look for that may suggest people are at risk would be giving away their belongings, unexpectedly planning their Will or funeral and being withdrawn, negative and hopeless. If you or someone you care about is at risk of harming themselves, getting support and information is crucial.”

Wallis Westbrook, General Manager of The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital, said suicide was an important issue to talk about however, was often overlooked due to its highly sensitive and complex nature.

“Tragically, suicide results in more deaths in Australia each year than car crashes but it only gets a fraction of the attention,” Mr Westbrook said.

“It’s time to start conversations with our family, friends and colleagues as a kind word really can make an enormous difference – each and every one of us has the power to save a life,” he said.

The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital at Buderim has been serving the community since 1980 and its Cooinda Mental Health Service provides the most comprehensive range of private mental health services on the Sunshine Coast.

If you or someone you care about needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If life is in danger, call 000.