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Suicide prevention: How can we help?

Posted in: Ask Our Expert
By GayNZ.com Daily News staff - 16th October 2015

In light of the recently released suicide statistics that reveal the highest number of deaths since records began in 2007, we ask the Mental Health Foundation’s Moira Clunie just what can we do to help those at risk in our own communities?

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What can the queer and trans communities do to support one another?
 
“We all have a role in recognising when friends and loved ones are going through hard times, and reaching out to those who may be struggling. If you’re worried about someone, the most important thing you can do is talk to them, and be prepared to listen. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly – asking about suicide in a supportive way will not put the thought in their head.
 
You don’t have to have all the answers, or to offer advice. The best thing you can do is be there and listen. If they are suicidal, support them to access professional help, like a doctor or counsellor. Ask if they would like your help explaining what they need. If they don’t get the help they need the first time, keep trying.
 
It’s especially important to look out for people who are experiencing rejection – whether from their families, churches or friends at school – as well as people who are having trouble accepting themselves. People might also need more support when there are major changes going on in their lives – such as coming out to friends or family, breaking up with a partner, or accessing doctors to help with gender transition.
 
It’s also really important to take care of yourself when you are caring for others. It’s normal to feel scared, powerless or unsure of how to help. Be kind to yourself, take time out when you need to, and find someone you can talk to – a friend or family member you trust, or a counsellor.
 
The queer and trans communities can also help by working to create more supportive environments that accept and celebrate diversity. The great work that RainbowYOUTH does with their education programme in schools is an example of this. Local research has shown that more supportive school environments are linked with lower rates of suicidal behaviours for queer young people.
 
Research is clear that higher rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours in the queer and trans communities are linked with social exclusion and discrimination. All the great advocacy and education work that’s being done to change social attitudes and structures is part of suicide prevention.”

Why aren’t queer and trans people reaching out for help?
 
“When people are feeling suicidal, it can be really hard to ask for help. They might feel whakamā or ashamed of how they’re feeling, like they don’t deserve help, or like no-one can help them. It can be impossible to have hope that things will get better. This is why it’s so important to reach out when you are worried about someone – having a chance to talk to someone who can listen without judgement can be a great relief.
 
Some queer and trans people might hesitate to access professional services because they are worried about rejection or discrimination – or they may have had bad experiences with services in the past. Most professionals don’t get much training about sexuality or gender, and some may not understand diversity. If you don’t get the help you need the first time, it’s really important to keep trying. There is always someone you can talk to. If you’re not sure who, try calling a helpline like OUTLine NZ (0800 688 5463), Lifeline (0800 543 354) or Youthline (0800 376 633 or free text 234).”

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GayNZ.com Daily News staff - 16th October 2015