Joy Dibley, of Coffs Harbour remembers her bother Sam (pictured) who took his own life seven years ago.
Joy Dibley, of Coffs Harbour remembers her bother Sam (pictured) who took his own life seven years ago. Claudia Jambor

Coffs Harbour’s silent killer

SUICIDE is a silent killer in our community with figures more than doubling in Coffs Harbour in recent years.

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of suicides increased from 8 in 2010 to 18 in 2014.

Despite these figures, suicide is perceived as a taboo topic and is often not spoken about.

The prevalence of suicide on the Coffs Coast this year alone is a concern for Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Darren Jameson.

"I'm really concerned; we've had some suicides of some very young kids this year," he said.

"We are seeing it here locally involving all age groups right up into elderly age.

"It's a harrowing thing, not only for police but particularly the families."

Det Insp Jameson's comments highlights that suicide affects all demographics, from the young to the elderly.

Lifeline North Coast supervisor Lyn Anderson said suicide among the elderly often goes unnoticed.

"Often we think it's natural causes because they are elderly when actually they have taken their own lives. It could be with overdoses of medication right through to starvation," she said.

Ms Anderson said Coffs Harbour's rising suicide rate was in line with state and national figures.

The recent $8-million Suicide Prevention Fund by the State Government is among many government initiatives to support those losing their desire to live.

SOURCE: Australia Bureau of Statistics

Those affected by suicide, such as Pam Lund, of Coffs Harbour, would like to see more done across all three tiers of government.

Pam's first husband took his life 28 years ago, leaving her to raise her three girls, under the age of 17.

For Pam, breaking down the stigma surrounding suicide must start from a young age.

"I think it needs to be talked about in schools.They say that about everything but it needs, especially with teenage kids, to be talked about and done so in a safe environment," she said.

As someone who regularly struggles with suicidal thoughts and depression, Kim Hodges believes the outlook on mental health needs to be similar to chronic conditions such as diabetes.

"I am a human being living with a mental illness. I am not mental or psycho or crazy; as many people like to label sufferers of mental illness," Kim said.

"Mental health needs to be compared to diabetes or some other illness where a specialist helps you manage it and gives you the skills to live with it."

In a similar vein, Joy Dibley would like to see an intensive care-like unit for mental health patients separate from mainstream emergency wards.

The 34-year-old's brother, Sam, took his own life in care in Coffs Harbour at 23.

For Joy, someone expressing they want to kill themselves needs to be viewed as an emergency.

"As soon as someone says suicide to their dad or a nurse, I just think it needs to be like if you present at hospital like you're going to have a heart attack," she said.

Lifeline North Coast's Fiona Ross said prevention should be integrated in the social fabric.

"It shouldn't take that (a suicide) for them to seek out the help, they should be ready to engage when it does happen so they are preventing it and not waiting until afterwards," she said.

"They (governments) need to engage with the idea that suicide is a reality.

If you or someone you know needs support about suicide, phone Lifeline on 131114.

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