The Leading Cause Of Death No One Wants To Talk About
Last week, Chris Cornell joined the ever-growing list of celebrities that have died by their own hand. When celebrities commit suicide, it briefly highlights that uncomfortable subject we so diligently avoid talking about. Well, I'm sick of sweeping things under the rug, especially when we are losing over 3,000 Aussies to suicide every year.
It's time for me to step out and give power to creating a safe space for those suffering, and an understanding and awareness to everyone else about just how serious depression is.
I have suffered with depression since I was 15. I dreamt of having the strength to kill myself. Depression made me think that my strength to stay alive was a weakness. But it was the stigma around mental health that made me listen to my depression. It was the fear of judgement, the inevitable feeling of misunderstanding and rejection, that kept me from sharing the depth of my troubles. I remember calling Lifeline a few times and they were angels heaven-sent. They didn't tell me to walk it off, or just get outside because it's a beautiful day. They know that depression is an illness, and it generally doesn't come on because we didn't go for a run one day. After hundreds of similar conversations between myself, friends, family over the last 10 years... I now understand my depression enough to know when the pit is opening, and I know what to do to stop falling in it. This is something I hope to share with sufferers and supporters, to reduce the stigma and fear associated with speaking out about mental health. Here's some terrifying stats about suicide, which are coming from Lifeline in 2015:
- SUICIDE IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AUSTRALIANS AGED 15-44.
- SUICIDE IS THE 13TH HIGHEST CAUSE OF DEATH IN AUSTRALIA, BEATING OUT BREAST CANCER, SKIN CANCER, PANCREATIC CANCER AND LIVER DISEASE.
Yes, you read that right. More people die by their own hand than BREAST CANCER OR SKIN CANCER.
In a country known for its rates of skin cancer, we are taught from an early age to slip, slop, slap. There are ads on television about the risks of going out in the sun, and shocking articles about a friendly mole turned life-threatening. We know how to recognise the risks and signs of skin cancer, but not depression.
Most times I start a conversation with someone about depression and suicide, the response is how difficult it is for the young people in this day and age - with bullying from every angle, online and in the flesh. This is true. The ASTONISHING fact is actually knowing the statistics of suicide... and knowing that the highest numbers of suicide are in:
- 1) Men over 85
- 2) Men aged 45-60
- 3) Women aged 45-60
Not teenagers, grown adults. Adults with families, full-time jobs, responsibilities... and depression.
- Men commit suicide at a three times higher rate than females
- Indigenous Australians commit suicide at a five times higher rate than non-Indigenous Australians
Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts... these are a disease no less than cancer. Talking about these issues takes the power away from depression and gives it to those strong enough to not look away or sweep under the rug these problems that are taking the lives of so many.
Saying R U OK once a year is not enough. Not when EIGHT PEOPLE PER DAY are dying by suicide. I refuse to sit here and let depression feel more comfortable than a conversation.
Change starts with awareness. This is a big problem, guys. And, statistically, more of you reading this have felt what I'm talking about than not.
Start a conversation. Hold the space. You may never know how much that means to someone that needs it.
Lifeline can be contacted on 13 11 14
For those aged 12-25, Headspace can be contacted on 1800 650 890
Emily (Director, Naturopath, Herbalist, and fellow sufferer of depression)