In September we are promoting R U OK Day?, the suicide prevention and awareness foundation established by Gavin Larkin following his personal experience of loss to suicide. Having a conversation and encouraging those at risk to seek help is the real impact of this very special foundation.
I want to take the opportunity this September to focus on young people. As an EAP we see and support many young people. In fact 10% of our clients are aged under 25. We see young people who are employed by organisations such as food outlets and retailers, or are family members of employees. Indirect support is also provided to young people through their parents who will often seek our guidance through counselling.
The statistics regarding youth are sombre. Suicide is the second largest cause of death amongst people aged between 15 and 24 years, with motor vehicle accidents being the leading cause. Research also tells us that up to 50% of young people admit to thinking about suicide.
With the emergence of social media we have also witnessed some concerning trends in regard to youth suicide, e.g. cyber bullying leading to suicide attempts. Programs such as “13 Reasons why” appeal to youth as it draws attention to youth suicide, and whilst the storyline is controversial, it highlights the concerning trend that suicide is seen as an option for many youth who are struggling.
You may be reading this as a parent, teacher, or manager of a young person, and wondering what you can do about this. The aim of the R U OK Campaign is prevention through reaching out and connecting with each other. This is particularly relevant for our youth who may find it difficult to talk about feelings. I believe the first step is to educate ourselves about the stressors that are faced by young people, and how they cope or don’t cope. We need to understand why youth suicide and attempts are occurring at rates not seen before in history. We need to find ways of reaching out.
Communication and having a conversation about suicide is a cornerstone of prevention. However, this can also be a challenge when it comes to young people. It can be difficult for example, to know how to connect with someone for whom a string of emoji’s is the preferred form of self-expression.