It’s just too hard. Why should I keep going? Why should I keep trying? No one listens to me. These statements and questions are something that many people say to themselves every single day. They don’t want pity. They don’t want it handed to them on a silver platter either. They just want to be listened to, acknowledged and reassured that it’s okay not to be okay.
The stats are very raw and sadly, not decreasing.
Statistics reveal that over the last five years they have remained constant for our younger generation. (Source ABS).
- In 2017, 621 committed suicide (8% of them via a motor vehicle)
- Also, in 2017, 467 of our youth self-harmed, and that’s just the ones who presented at emergency or their GP. I’m sure the real number is much higher.
These are alarming figures and it shows that our mental health system needs growth, support and funding, but that’s a whole separate discussion for the experts.
Memories of our youth
When I was growing up we had lots of kids in our street and everyone’s door was mostly always opened. We had adventures at the local park or road bikes till the street lights came on then went home for dinner, then went out and played on the street again until we got too tired to stay awake. As we got older we would ride our bikes to the local beach then come home when we were hungry. This idyllic part of my childhood helped me get through the next phase.
The other side of that coin is my school years. Whilst I was lucky enough to grow up walking distance from both primary and high school, bullying was rife throughout most of those years – except my final year in high school. I had buck teeth (until four years of braces fixed that problem), red hair, freckles and my last name was Page. Perfect recipe for being picked on. I would shrink into my shell and make up my own little imaginary world on what my future would hold. Thankfully, I survived those years and have created a world for myself where I can talk to others about my issues, but back then, no one knew how to listen and I wondered how I got through it. Memories of our youth should be joyful and fun – not fraught with fear and loneliness.
The expectation of todays generation.
Comparing years gone by as a young woman to today’s climate as a young person, how very different everything is. The expectation of today’s generation and beyond is to be instantly well informed – thanks to the world wide web. But with that brings constant social media attention and the expectation to be seen as well dressed, the perfect pose, hanging with the right people. I’ll admit I’m always on social media (for business purposes) and it can be used for good, but increasingly cyber-bullying has reached into every corner of a young person’s world.
How can we help them? Here’s some ideas to get the conversation started today.
- Ask, are you okay?
- Listen without judgement
- Encourage them to discuss without interrupting
- Pop a catch-up date in your diary to check in with them a few days after your chat.
Start the conversation today
I don’t have the answers, and I’m thankful my girls can come talk to me in times of crisis, but I would like for you to do one thing today. Make contact with someone and start the conversation today. Whether it be someone you saw yesterday or someone you haven’t heard from in a while, are you okay? You may just be what they need to hear that today. You don’t need to advise or offer counselling – just listen. If you are fearful for that person, inform a loved one or a peer, don’t ignore it.
Having been personally touched by suicide in our family, reaching out before someone gets to that stage can hopefully make all the difference.
Sarah Bruce is a road safety educator who supports clients with mental health, who have suffered road trauma and families to support the next generation of drivers. She is available for interview and can be contacted via email@example.com or 0422765843.