THE reaction to our front page story last Saturday shows how far we have to go as a society when it comes to talking about suicide.
In the story, Lifeline Central West executive officer Alex Ferguson spoke of his fears that lives could be lost as a result of the state government’s plan to ban greyhound racing in NSW from July 1 next year.
Mr Ferguson did not take a position on whether or not the ban was right and fair but, rather, he expressed concerns about the process behind the proposal. He spoke about the strains individuals might face once their livelihood is taken away.
Trainers and breeders across the have invested thousands of [borrowed] dollars in the sport and those debts must be repaid whether the dogs are racing or not.
There are families to feed and bills to pay, and there are some tough days ahead.
These are the realities as Mr Ferguson sees it, regardless of whether the greyhound ban is justified or not. And Mr Ferguson’s experience tells him that a combination of all those stresses could inevitably lead some people to make a terrible choice.
He has been roundly criticised, but we should remember where he’s coming from.
Alex Ferguson is not an angry man yelling from the sidelines. He is a considered, conscientious professional who has carved out a long career in a job that would have broken most of us years ago.
He comes across people at their worst, at their lowest point, and has dedicated his working career to supporting people who fear their demons are getting the better of them. These are the credentials this newspaper considered before publishing his concerns, along with our own concerns about reporting on suicide.
This is a terribly difficult area, and one where the stakes are always high.
Reporting on issues surrounding suicide requires a responsible approach, one that seeks to balance the conflicting concerns that talking too much about suicide might normalise it while not talking enough about suicide might leave those battling their own thoughts with nowhere to turn.
The media may sometimes get it wrong when we report on suicide, but a ban on the issue would mean we never got it right.
Suicide must be a valid topic of conversation and experts in the field, like Alex Ferguson, should rightly be given a platform to share their legitimate concerns in a proactive - rather than reactive - manner.
- Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help in a crisis.