STRONG: Dannyel Alford, Brian Lund and Joe Williams.
STRONG: Dannyel Alford, Brian Lund and Joe Williams. MANIPULATED IMAGE

One question can save a life

A COMMON comment from those who have lost a loved one to suicide is that they didn't see it coming.

They say it's vital to read people and identify changes in behaviour.

Pam Lund lost her first husband to suicide. She says such changes in behaviour can include increased alcohol consumption, withdrawals from family, friends or hobbies, mood swings and sleeplessness.

"People need to be educated to watch people," Pam said.

"When you're suffering depression or a mental illness, your self-esteem goes out the window. So you have no concept of what's real or what's temporary."

Indigenous boxer and former Rabbitohs player, Joe Williams, knows first-hand what it's like losing touch with reality.

"The day I attempted my life, I could not think about my kids, I could not think about my mum and dad because the noise inside my head and the thought process was too overpowering to think about anything else but killing myself," Joe said.

It is that blinding focus on death that Lifeline counsellor Fiona Ross calls "the moment" felt by those who are suicidal.

Fiona says if you think a loved one may be a danger to themselves, explicitly ask: "Are you feeling suicidal at the moment?"

"That phrase in itself says at this moment this is how you feel by indicating that there may be another moment when you don't feel like this," Fiona said.

From her years of counselling people, Fiona says identifying the moment and stating your support helps that person move out of that head space.

Dannyel Alford, 18, acknowledged the question was tough for those asking and answering.

She has been on the receiving end of that question.

"It makes your stomach drop. It is a confronting question, it's hard to say to someone who obviously cares about you, 'Yes, I want to be dead', because that hurts them," she said.

But Dannyel says it's a question we need to ask more. She lives with mental illness and has attempted suicide multiple times in the past.

"You could be the difference between them going and hurting themselves. Just sit down with them, ask them, it's worth a try," Dannyel said.

Joe, as a motivational speaker on suicide prevention and mental health, reinforces the importance of asking that confronting question.

"If you ask that person, 'Mate, are you thinking about killing yourself?' then they are going to say 'Yes' if that's true," he said.

"A lot of people for many years thought if you ask the question it's going to plant the seed into their head to think about suicide. Statistics have shown that's incorrect.

"In that moment, that person thinks about suicide but it also gives them an opportunity for a way out."

Brian Lund lost his brother to suicide and he said listening was important when supporting someone in a dark place.

"If you interrupt them, they'll shut up completely but if you don't interrupt them then maybe they'll spell it out."

Helping them face those suicidal thoughts is the first step to helping them back on their feet, Pam says.

"Then it gives you the chance to help them, whether it be to get them to their doctor or onto Lifeline or something rather than them feeling like they're isolated."

Dannyel is living proof of the importance of having that confronting conversation.

Facing her mental illness has helped her live a happier life and secure employment.

"It's an incredible feeling. (You) just become happier because you are happy," she said.

"It's a sense of relief, you don't feel like you're carrying the world on your shoulders any more."

The road isn't always easy, she says she still has hard days but she is equipped with techniques such as exercise to overcome her lows.

Sadly, the signs of suicide are not always clear, and for Joy Dibley and her family, they still aren't clear.

They didn't have a chance to identify them. In a week, her brother Sam went from being himself into a psychotic episode voicing suicidal thoughts.

"It's like building a puzzle with somebody when they die from suicide, you don't really know because they weren't very fluent in talking about what the issues are. We are still trying to work out what were the issues, didn't have a previous break-up, we didn't have any death in the family, he wasn't ill physically, he hadn't been fired from anywhere, he was very intelligent," she said.

If you or someone you know needs support about suicide prevention phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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