Suicide continues to be a major cause of avoidable death among farmers in Australia. Occupational, environmental, social and climatic conditions, poor access to health care services and stigma all contribute.
People living on farms also have greater access to lethal means than people in the city. Sometimes what looks like a ‘farm accident’ may actually be a suicide.
While diagnosable mental illness can be a factor in suicide, this is not always the case. Farming can be extremely difficult at times. After years of drought some farm families then face crop and stock losses due to floods, fires, market changes or insect attack. It can seem overwhelming.
Suicide risk in farming families has also been associated with family breakdown, children leaving home, or anything that jeopardises farmers’ ability to continue farming (for example, a debilitating injury or illness). An accumulation of these factors compounds suicide risk.
If someone close to you is talking about ‘ending it all’ or that they ‘can’t take anymore’. Don’t ignore it.
Your role as a support person is similar to performing ‘first aid’. That is, you do your best to support the suicidal person and try to link them up with professional mental health services. Do whatever it takes to get them help.
Signs to watch out for
Not everyone talks explicitly about their intention to suicide. Some signs that a person may be thinking of suicide include:
- Talking about death or hurting themselves
- Drinking more or using drugs
- Saying they feel there is no way out of their problems
- Saying their family is better off without them, or they are better off out of the way
- Abandoning social activities
- Feeling anger or rage
Things you can do which may help
- Tell the person how important they are to you and how you and others need them.
- Let them know that you recognise how bad they are feeling, but don’t ignore the problem.
- If they want to talk, listen.
- Ask them if they would like to talk to someone outside the family, like a phone counsellor at the Suicide Call Back Service (details below) or Lifeline.
- Ring a phone counselling service yourself; the counsellor may have some advice that will help.
- Remove any means of suicide available, including weapons, medications, alcohol and other drugs, even access to a car. Be aware of your own safety.
- For immediate crisis intervention when life may be in danger, ring the ambulance or police on Triple Zero (Tel. 000), or take the person to your local hospital emergency department.
References used for this topic page
Last updated: 18th November, 2016