Australian Suicide Prevention Foundation

A National Health Promotion Charity


Transcript: 2GB Sydney Radio's Bill Woods interview with Prof. David Horgan about the new “Prevent A Suicide: What to Say” app and World Suicide Prevention Day.

10 September, 2023

Something that’s killing a lot of Australians and I think it’s fair to say that is a little bit more urgent than people getting upset by hearing an opposing view on their radio station once in the blue moon. Anyway how about these statistics suicide and attempted suicide are the most common causes of death and injury between the ages of 15 and 49 that’s male or female. More than three million Aussies have had serious thoughts of suicide, more than a million have attempted it. On average each suicide would directly affect more than 130 friends and family members. If you’re in the vicinity of someone who you suspect to be suicidal, what do you do? Some of us can be very afraid that they might say the wrong thing and in fact trigger somebody. Others try very hard to intervene and may in fact be not doing the right thing. They’re just not sure. Today’s World Suicide Prevention Day and the Suicide Prevention Foundation has launched a new app. It’s called Prevent a Suicide What to Say. With the aim of giving us a safety net to wrap around anyone close to us then hopefully, hopefully it’s a shared effort that the community and professionals can work on. To tell us more, Professor David Horgan joins us from the Australian Suicide Prevention Society. Thanks for your time Professor.

Thank you very much for having me.

We have posters around the kitchen here like many workplaces asking us to check on our colleagues especially are you okay Dave which has been quite successful I think in many ways comes up next Thursday. It does create awareness, it does make us think about it and as I said unfortunately, tragically many of us have been touched by suicide in one way or another but what do you do if you ask okay? What happens after that if you’re told well I’m not for example?

Exactly and that goes to the core of the issue and 40% of the population according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics have been close to someone who has either died from suicide or has attempted suicide so it’s a huge problem and something we don’t see ads about you’re much more likely to die from suicide or be injured from a suicide attempt than you are to die or be injured by any car accident twice to three times as likely in fact but we don’t see ads about this because of the stigma.

Unfortunately and yes what do you say when someone says I wish I was dead and or I have been thinking at all.

We did a survey through Resolve strategic last year which showed that 60% of the population almost don’t know what to say and are as quite likely pointed out are afraid they’re going to say the wrong thing now they think if only there was a professional but there’s no way professionals can be there all the time and can cover these numbers and so what we have done is we have produced this app and indeed a website that goes with it called in tough times text and it gives a whole lot of text messages that you can send to somebody this sort of phrases that a professional would say to a person who had suicidal ideas and you can look through the text messages that all that one sounds useful to me you just touch it with one click and it downloads from our service onto your telephone messages section and then you can send it as it is or you can modify to make it more personal and what the last straw for very many people who want to die from suicide is they feel totally alone they feel nobody understands them so if in fact you mentioned that you wish you weren’t alive and a whole lot of texts come from the most important people in your life over a number of days or weeks or however long it takes for the ideas to be treated then it’s very hard to go from having false suicide to doing something when you have all these people who are very important to you being obviously very supportive to you so it acts as a kind of circuit breaker you think and then you can take it from there hopefully well indeed a circuit breaker a safety net and we deliberately chose text because it’s very difficult to go up and have a one-to-one conversation with somebody and it would be quite daunted whereas we are so much more used to sending messages by text over sensitive subjects and particularly young people who are the ones at most risk of attempted suicide and they are very used to communicating each other by text so we are just going along with that facility. I always go to ask if you were you know deliberately doing it this way I mean it is very portable and it is a very easily accessible way of getting some language correct when you when you’re talking to people and clearly experts have come up with these expressions so that they don’t contain triggers and things that are well known to perhaps be damaging but on the other hand you’re right it’s also tapping into the way young people communicate and that youth suicide rate is quite astounding. It is indeed and you mentioned the community and we in fact want this to be interactive with the community we are pleading with people to send us suggested texts that they think would be useful phrases to say and if we can agree with that we will put it up on our service and that is and also the app is going to see which phrases are downloaded most often and give them as the number one choice etc when people start going through the list so we want it to be done with ongoing community support where we will listen to what people tell us is useful because we don’t have all the answers and we are using the service to convert what has always been or if somebody’s suicidal push them to see accounts or make call to a crisis line or owns the adopters you can our mental health professional but that’s very difficult for them to do when they’re already struggling so we are now introducing a third aspect in the situation which is the support of family and friends who are immediately able to respond this is 10 o’clock on a Friday night somebody says I wish I was dead they just have to access in tough times text the website or prevent a suicide what to say the app and see how we see phrases that are going to be useful I might also point out that we are involved with people such as lived experience Australia and roses in the ocean organizations of people who have been there and have been affected by suicide and they are strongly supportive of this initiative and when I say it’s initiative it’s actually probably a world first nobody else has come up with this concept of sending texts immediately by family and friends and so I hope it works yep and as you suggest also a way of bridging that very big step from identification that yes I’ve got a problem and seeking professional help which which clearly is is the most important thing so professor David Horgan we wish you all the best with it and it’d be nice to catch up a year from now and and perhaps talk about better better statistics and and some success from what you’ve achieved so far so thank you very much for your time today.

Thank you very much.

*Important Disclaimer: Our texts are approved by those who themselves had suicidal thoughts, and by medical and other mental health professionals. This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor or mental health professional.


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