EACH and every day last year eight people ended their lives by suicide, but Lifeline's Stephanie Robinson says communities can make a real difference to the heartbreak.
Last year 3046 Australians died by suicide and while that's 82 less than the year before, it's more than double the national road toll of 1145 deaths.
Of those who died, 76 per cent (2320 people) were male and the highest number of deaths fell into the 45-49 year old category, the data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Wednesday reveals.
"Females attempt suicide more often than men do, but men often use a more lethal means and end up dying by suicide," Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Ms Robinson said.
The ABS also showed that NSW was the only state to record an increased number of suicides - from 880 in 2017 to 899 in 2018.
While relieved that the national suicide rate had dropped, Ms Robinson admits she expected it would have increased in this latest report.
"From our centre you certainly don't feel that there has been any decrease ... incidents of people suiciding and in distress has certainly increased in our region," she said.
"There has certainly been an increase in deaths in young people in our community, male and female."
Connectivity might sound like a buzz word or something you need for your computer, but Ms Robinson said it was absolutely vital to help stop depression, anxiety and mental health issues.
Not everyone who dies by suicide suffered mental illness, but 43.9 per cent did suffer depression and 17.6 per cent had anxiety.Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson
"Not everyone who dies by suicide suffered mental illness, but 43.9 per cent did suffer depression and 17.6 per cent had anxiety," she said.
Ms Robinson said communities need to work on connecting with each other - no matter whether it's through sport, social groups, projects or art.
"One of the biggest protection factors that a community needs is connection and an opportunity for connection," she said.
"Community connectedness is vital in ensuring the suicide rate continues to drop."
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As the drought hits the two-year mark in the region, Ms Robinson said she was deeply concerned about its impact on people's mental health.
"My concern is whether the stress and problems a long and continuing drought brings has contributed to the statistics increasing in NSW," she said.
"History has shown that men in particular in rural and remote communities are at a greater risk than their metropolitan counterparts.
"This needs to be something that all of the population are concerned with ... it really can impact anyone at any time."
A team left changed forever
EARLIER this year 23-year-old Chris Rothnie took his life own life by suicide and his action has forever changed his beloved Orange Tiger AFL club.
"Chris was just a knockabout guy who was always there to volunteer at the footy club", Tigers' president Andrew Nelson said.
In the time since Chris and his brother Michael joined Orange Tigers AFL club, they won three first grade premierships together.
Not long before his death, Chris decided he no longer wanted to play and told Mr Nelson that he was "getting some help and seeing a psychologist".
Changes in behaviour can be a sign that someone is not coping, Mr Nelson said of the lessons he and his team have learnt since recently taking part the Outside the Locker Room program.
"It's a terrific resource ... it's definitely changed the way we view everything," he said.
"It's changed the way we act to other people and also the way we show support.
"It taught us ways to look out for each other and to support each other and to make sure to follow up.
"You've got to think about the way you talk to people ... the things you say can actually have an effect."
Back then you wouldn't talk about it [depression] because you're [seen as] weak or a failure.Orange Tigers AFL president Andrew Nelson
Mr Nelson suffered from depression in 2013 and said back then the attitude was 'see a doctor, take some pills for six months and you'll be right'.
"It's the you'll be right mentality," he said was a significant problem.
"Back then you wouldn't talk about it because you're [seen as] weak or a failure."
These days Mr Nelson said while there was still stigma surrounding mental health, he was thankful there was more support available.
Mr Nelson encouraged other sporting clubs to look out for their members, not just during the season but year round.
"During the off season you mightn't see them for three or four months so keep connected, even if it's to catch up for a beer or a coffee," he said.
Forget the 'old group therapy' sessions
THE shock of a suicide and its unexpected nature will often leave people frozen, National Association for Loss and Grief (NALG) clinical manager Kerrie Noonan says.
"Because the loss is quite sudden, and if there is no warning and it comes out of the blue, it can take a while to come to terms with it," she said.
"It can be really tough for people to feel they're not alone in this.
"Grief is different for everyone and very unique for the person going through the loss."
NALG has offices in Dubbo and Mudgee, but also offers a range of face-to-face and telephone support services across the Central West, including support and education for individuals and groups left bereaved by suicide.
"People are initially a bit frozen after suicide and then people get active and support each other," Ms Noonan said.
NALG can assist when a school has been impacted by a suicide doesn't know how to share the news with students, and also offer help to grieving children.
Schools, workplaces, sporting and parent groups in the region are among those to have been supported by NALG in recent months.
Ms Noonan said support was no longer "like the old group therapy" sessions and she urged anyone in need to make contact.
"There is support and there are people who are interested and who are willing to be there for you and to listen after a suicide," she said.
Call the National Association for Loss and Grief on 6882 9222 or visit them online.
Walk 'n' Talk for Life
SOMETIMES sitting face-to-face to discuss your mental health issues or suicidal thoughts can be confronting, Lithgow Information and Neighbourhood Centre's Leanne Walding says.
That's why Walk 'n' Talk was created to bring like-minded people together for a bit of exercise and a non-confrontational way to have a chat.
All participants are asked to wear a yellow t-shirt so that nobody, including the psychologist and other mental health service professionals who attend each time, stand out.
That way, Ms Walding said participants can feel at ease when discussing any issues.
It's ok not to be ok, but it's not ok not to reach out.Lithgow Information and Neighbourhood Centre's Leanne Walding
"It's ok not to be ok, but it's not ok not to reach out," she said.
Walk 'n' Talk commenced in Lithgow in 2017 and so far 1800 people have taken part.
The program has since expanded to include Portland and Wallerawang, and will commence in Bathurst on October 27.
Other locations including Mudgee, Orange and Dubbo will soon have their own Walk 'n' Talk events.
Creating resilience within the community
A PROJECT to help people connect and build their resilience has commenced at the Lithgow Information and Neighbourhood Centre (LINC).
Clinical psychologist and Resilience Doughnut director Lyn Worsley said it would be a fun and uplifting program that looked at people with a resilience lens rather than a trauma lens.
"What's involved in the doughnut is teaching people about the model, how to apply it to themselves and then when using it as a group find where strengths are and combining them to thrive," she said.
"It's research based and evidence based, it's really based on people who have survived and thrived despite the fact that they've gone through hard difficulties," she said.
For help in a crisis
- Call Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
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