REGIONAL Australians are feeling the impacts of suicide at a much higher rate than those living in major cities, new research shows.
Almost two-in-three regional Australians personally know someone who has died by suicide. They are also more likely to be worried about suicide risk in their communities, a Suicide Prevention Australia-commissioned survey says.
It is the first time such a number had been linked to the scale of suicide's reach in regional and rural communities.
Horsham Healthy Minds is a group that hosts regular workshops, courses and talks about mental health.
Member Gavin Morrow said the group was formed about 10 years ago with an aim to start conversations about mental health in the Wimmera.
"Sometimes it feels like the problem is getting worse and we're talking to more people with mental health issues - but we don't know whether they were always there or whether people are just more willing to talk about it now," he said.
"We started the group because people were finding it really hard to get help to the point of absolute frustration.
"Everyone's situation is different and it could be for varying reasons that they're not feeling great - from relationship breakdowns or financial difficulties, or maybe they just don't know why."
The group also acts as a referral service, connecting people to a GP, Uniting Wimmera, or to a psychiatrist when possible.
Mr Morrow said group members were also happy to talk to people in times of need.
"If they talk to someone and get it off their shoulders, it does help a lot. It's important that people talk to someone before they get to that really low point," he said.
Lifeline Ballarat covers the Wimmera region including Horsham, Stawell and Ararat. However, program manager Michelle MacGillivray said people who called its hotline could be directed anywhere in Australia.
She said feelings of isolation could lead to mental health crises in regional areas such as the Wimmera.
"We get a lot of calls from people who are very lonely. Living in an isolated community can be a factor of this, but it's usually not the only factor. Other factors such can also lead to a feeling of isolation," she said.
"Access to health services could also be a factor. People can be proactive and approach their GP, but there can be a wait for appointments. So there are things people can do in the meantime while they wait for that appointment."
She recommended using Beyond Blue's website for wellbeing tips. She said exercise, healthy eating and meditation were ways people could reduce stress and improve mental health.
Ms MacGillivray said for each person who died by suicide, their death directly affected about 135 people from immediate family to work colleagues.
Tuesday marks World Suicide Prevention Day, while Thursday is R U OK? Day. Ms MacGillivray said it was important to acknowledge the messages of these days all year round.
"For too long it's been a taboo subject, but we need to bring it out in the open. We need to acknowledge it does have an impact in our communities," she said.
"When people really aren't doing well, the most important thing is for them to acknowledge those feelings and reach out to someone for support. We have to think about who you can talk to in your network - whether it's a friend or family member or work colleague."
- If you, or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Help on 1800 55 1800 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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