At Risk Now!

Individuals experiencing very intense emotions can feel very out of control, leaving the person vulnerable and totally overwhelmed.  Alternatively, very intense emotions can also lead to feeling very numb and blank. Both of these states are very uncomfortable.  If these states or extreme feelings continue for too long a period of time, they can lead people to be self destructive, in an attempt to change or shut off the feeling.

Also, sometimes suicidal action or self harm is the only solution people can think of.  This usally occurs if the person has a problem that has gone on for too long, or if the problem seems beyond their ability to solve or cope with. Usually in this situation people have tried for a long time to cope or simply survive their problems, and they start feeling trapped or loose hope in escaping their circumstances.

These are the common reasons for people feeling suicidal or engaging in self harm. Both involve a desperate desire to change either the feeling or the situation the person is experiencing.

Research indicates that people with 1) a prior history of self harm or suicide attempts, who 2) have symptoms of clinical depression, and who 3) also are experiencing a stressor, such as a relationship break down, financial difficulties, or loss of some kind, are at risk of suicidal behaviour. However, without these indicators, people can also be at risk.

What should you do?

No suggestion of suicidal feelings or self harm should be ignored, as they do indicate that the person concerned is experiencing significant psychological and emotional distress.

A mental health professional should be engaged to professionally assess the risk and needs of the person involved, and recommend treatment options. It is important that a trained professional be engaged if there is some indications of suicidal feelings or self harm behaviours to make an assessment of the person’s needs.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self harm, it can be helpful to follow these steps:

  1. Use a calm, caring and gentle voice when you speak to the person
  2. Ask them if they are feeling unsafe

If they say they are safe:

  1. Tell them you are still concerned about them, and would like to help them
  2. Ask them to come with you to an appointment with a health professional who can assess risk and make recommendations for support and treatment

If they say they are unsafe:

  1. Do not leave them alone, ensure they are supervised by someone responsible
  2. Remove the means to self harm, such as access to medication or sharp instruments
  3. Arrange an appointment or contact with a health professional
  4. Take them to the appointment and ensure they make the contact, so a professional assessment of risk and recommendations for help can be obtained

If the risk for suicide is imminent, meaning that it urgent and about to happen:

Take the person concerned to your local Emergency Room. Sit with them until they are assessed by medical personell.

Call 000 if you think a person has already engaged in a self harm behaviour and needs immediate medical assistance.

Health professionals you can contact to make an assessment of risk and get help for treatment:

  • In Australia, you may phone your local public hospital, and ask to speak to psychiatric triage on the phone. They may be able to assess the person on the phone or may come to assses the person in their home
  • Psychiatric triage at your local public hospital
  • Your local emergency room
  • Psychiatrist
  • GP
  • Community health service worker
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker

Anonymous crisis phone lines such as Life Line provide support and referral, but they do not provide assessments of someone’s risk for self harm or suicide. This must be done by a trained professional in a formal contact with the person concerned.

However, if you wish to contact an phone counselling service and you are in Australia, you may call:

For General Phone or Crisis Counselling

Lifeline 13 11 14  general support

Suicide Help Line 1300 651 251 crisis intervention & support

For Women

Womens Domestic Violence Crisis Service 1800 015 188 domestic violence

WIRE Womens Information 1300 134 130 all types of information and referal

Womens Health Information Centre 9344 2007 nurses on all areas of women’s health

For Men

Dads in Distress 1300 853 437 support for fathers, all issues

Mensline Australia 1300 789 978 general men’s issues

Mens Referal Service 1800 065 973 for men concerned about their anger or violence

Specialist Phone Lines

Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) 1800 688 009  sexual abuse & sexual assualt

Gamblers Help 1800 156 789 gambling

Reconnexion  1300 273 266 panic & tranquiliser dependency

Directline 1800 888 236 alcohol & drugs

Family Drug Help 1300 660 068 for family/friends of people using alcohol/drugs

Quitline 137 848 nicotine addiction

Gay & Lesbian Switchboard 9827 8544 gay & lesbian support & info (evenings 6-10pm, wed 2-10pm)

Anxiety & OCD Helpline 9886 9377 anxiety & OCD

Compassionate Friends 9888 4944 breavement support

Debtors Anonymous 9513 3008  debt, financial problems

Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817  victims of reported crime

WAYSS 9791 6111 housing & support

Poisons Information Centre 13 1126 exposure to all poisons & medicines

For Kids and Teens

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 all areas of support for kids & teens

Teen Challenge Careline 1300 889 288  teen suicide prevention

For Parents and Families

Parentline 13 2289 all types of parenting issues

Stepfamily Helpline 9481 1500 step families

Family Drug Help 1300 660 068 family/friends of people using alcohol/drugs

PFLAG Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays 9827 8404 support for parents, families & children of gay/lesbian individuals

Toughlove Victoria 9733 0431 support groups for parents

Mental Health Info & Support

AFAFEMI mental health support 9810 9314

Mental Illness Fellowship Helpline 8486 4222

Mental Health Foundation of Australia 9427 0406

SANE Mental Illness Helpline 1800 187 263

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