Suicide Watch

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(Confronting content ahead)

Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 14-44. Our prime minister is giving Lifeline (our suicide hotline) $34 million to:

‘dramatically boost staff numbers dealing with pleas for help. The funding to Lifeline comes as national suicide rates reach a 10-year high, with more than eight deaths a day.’ (Sunday Mail 6/05/18)

I don’t doubt the PM’s good intentions. It’s easy to look at those statistics and think:

‘Let’s throw some money at this problem.’

But injecting funds into the surface of such a complex issue and proudly announcing it to the media, is like patting the captain of the Titanic on the back, as water rushes into the hull of his ship, and saying:

‘Don’t worry. We’ve got this. We can see this huge iceberg is the problem. We’ve got people sitting on top of it, hacking it down. And, to distract everyone from the drama we can make snowcones from the ice that’s falling on the deck.

If the government provided adequate funding and resources for the whole public mental health system, far fewer patients would ever reach the horror of considering suicide. Lifeline would have far fewer “pleas for help”.’

Let’s look into the complexities of suicide for a moment. The main reasons people die by suicide are:

  • Mental illness,
  • Substance abuse – often linked to mental illness through addiction disorders or attempts to self-medicate.
  • Family history of suicide – often indicates a family history of undiagnosed mental illness.
  • Psychological struggles (such as relationship break downs, loss of employment, or bullying) – can trigger a mental health crisis or be collateral damage of untreated mental illness.
  • Accidents – can occur due to symptoms of mental illness, such as poor judgement and increased risk taking.
  • Philosophical decisions to end terminal illness – are the only reasons not usually associated with mental illness.

Up to 90% of deaths by suicide can be directly attributed to mental illness. Of the rest, many are indirectly linked to it. That leaves few ‘pleas for help’ that can be solved with a call to Lifeline. The staff manning phones at Lifeline are highly skilled, and they may successfully delay a caller from acting on suicidal thoughts. But then what?

If the caller has private health insurance and insight they will be able to access good quality mental health care after they hang up. But what about:

The single mother, with a baby and a toddler, who is having suicidal ideations because she has severe, undiagnosed post-natal depression?

The seventeen-year-old young man who is experiencing psychotic auditory hallucinations because he has undiagnosed schizophrenia?

The fifty-year-old father of three who has struggled with anxiety and depression for twenty years, and is losing the battle because nothing he has tried has worked?

For the people in these examples a visit to the GP is not going to cut it.  The mother needs a hospital with a Mother/Baby Unit to care for her appropriately. Very few of these units currently exist in the public mental health system. All of these patients need to be under the care of a psychiatrist, and possibly need hospitalisation to manage their illness well.

If these people don’t have private health insurance they only have the public mental health system available to them. In eleven years of talking with patients with mental illness, I have not spoken to one person who has had a good experience in the public mental health hospital system.

I have heard of patients having to sleep in chairs because there were no beds, patients being told to just cry it out and being left alone, patients not getting the medication they need for hours and hours, patients with complex mental illness including psychoses being sent home after just a couple of days in hospital, and patients who were suicidal being discharged into the care of their family, with instructions to watch the patient for 24 hours a day to keep them safe. If patients are not suicidal they are often turned away from public mental health hospitals.

If I had five minutes with our prime minister I would say this:

‘Suicide is nearly always an end stage symptom of mental illness. In which other area of medicine, in a developed country, do we wait before the patient is dying before we offer help?

If I went to my doctor because I had found a lump in my breast and were told:

“Come back when you’ve lost a lot of weight, your lymph nodes are up, and that lump is so big it has broken through the skin and ulcerated. “

Would that be acceptable?

No!

So why is our public mental health system so underfunded that people are given inadequate treatment or are turned away until they are dying?’

 

Thank you for reading. If you are nodding in agreement, or you can relate to this post’s content, please go one step further and share it.

You may also find these posts interesting:

Sick Not Selfish

My First Time

If you need to call Lifeline the number is 13 11 14

 

Author: anitalinkthoughtfood

Writer, Mental Health Advocate, Veterinarian For more, visit me at Thought Food.

3 thoughts on “Suicide Watch”

  1. My ten year old has been threatening suicide. I went to my gp got a referral to a psychologist… first available appointment was four weeks! Today was that day, $200 for the appointment. And he now wants to see him weekly. Obviously i am going to take him, but as a full time student and single parent it is extremely difficult financially. Surely we can do better to get our children the help they need??? My 10 year old isn’t going to call lifeline. He won’t even talk to his dad on the phone!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for commenting. I couldn’t agree more, we should be able to do much better. At the moment good quality mental health care is means dependent, which is totally unacceptable. Hopefully the more we talk, write, and comment on these issues the more we can break down some of the stigma that still stands in the way of mental illness being given the same attention and funding as other areas of medicine. The system is far from perfect, but you have done an awesome job getting this far. I hope your son starts to feel better soon, and that you are also looking after yourself as best as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

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