At a televised leaders’ debate in Queensland midway through this year’s federal election campaign, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked his audience a question.
“How many of you have been touched by suicide?”
The response was startling.
Nearly all of the people in the crowd raised a hand to acknowledge they knew someone who had taken their own life.
It was a powerful display of how pervasive suicide is in our country and it was a pity few people had tuned in to see it.
But despite its all-too-common incidence, suicide continues to be a topic laden with stigma.
Some families, ashamed or guilt-stricken at their loved one’s death, close themselves off from the outside world.
Some friends, afraid of saying the wrong thing to families bereaved by suicide, choose to say nothing at all.
What makes this stigma so troubling is that an inability to talk about despair is a driving factor for many people to take their own life.
The “she’ll be right” mentality might be a cornerstone of the traditional Australian character, but it perpetuates a fear of vulnerability.
And there is nothing shameful about being vulnerable.
There is nothing weak about reaching out for help.
For a man to share his story does not undermine his masculinity.
The Ripple Effect is a welcome addition to the growing cannon of suicide prevention and support projects on offer in Australia.
It targets our country’s farming community, so often celebrated for their stoicism in the face of hardship, but too often succumbing to anxiety and depression.
The Ripple Effect also operates on the same premise that underscored Bill Shorten’s question; that one suicide sets in motion a series of events for an exponential number of family members, friends and acquaintances.
The opportunity for people with lived experience of suicide to share their stories online not only helps alleviate the burden of their grief – so often suffered in isolation – but also tells others battling in silence that it is OK to speak out.
If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.