Industry workers away from family at higher risk of suicide

Compassion Coaching director Paul Stewart shares his insight on the suicide crisis in rural areas.
Compassion Coaching director Paul Stewart shares his insight on the suicide crisis in rural areas. Tammy Lewis

IT'S a real issue involving real people, and if anyone can help with the suicide epidemic, it is people like Paul Stewart.

Psychologist and Compassion Coaching director Mr Stewart is a certified counsellor and life coach who works in the Gladstone region.

Throughout his career Mr Stewart has worked with many people who have been suicidal.

"I can actually say some have attempted, but to my knowledge I've never had anyone who I have worked with take their own life," he said.

In relation to regional areas such as Gladstone, Mr Stewart agreed suicide was much more of an issue than in other locations.

"You have so much industry," he said. "So many men who are here working in conditions that are not family orientated.

"We've got fly-in-fly-outs who are coming in that may be away from their families for long periods of time and this can add to the stress on them and their families."

Mr Stewart said the sense of disconnection could eventually lead to feelings of suicide.

"And if they are vulnerable, and I think they are, then they're at risk of depression and potentially, if the circumstances are right, of feeling suicidal," he said.

Suicide statistics don't show the true picture

In Australia suicide statistics are alarming, but Mr Stewart has his concerns about the reliability of current statistics available to the public.

"What's interesting is in Australia, the coroners' departments have most often not reported suicides as being suicides, but more often as just accidents," he said.

"The grounds on which they tend to do that are to try and protect people from hidden news that a loved one has taken their life.

"So our statistics on what suicide rates actually are - who knows - they're highly distorted.

"One thing I would be safe in saying is suicide rates are a lot higher than what we generally know about."

Mr Stewart believes the heartbreaking problem is not talked about enough.

"There was a trend in counseling a while back that if you talked about suicide somehow you would plant that idea in people's heads and it became taboo," Mr Stewart said.

"I think today we believe differently, that it's okay to talk about, but still I think there's a lot of taboos connected with it."

Mr Stewart said for people to feel suicidal, it was usually because they had developed a kind of tunnel vision around their life.

"They are seeing the possibilities of what they can do and it has been really closed in," he said.

"This is the only way they can deal with life."

On the upside, there is help for people experiencing these feelings.

"The process then is about opening it up for people to see that their life is not whatever that issue of pressure is that's causing them to be overwhelmed," Mr Stewart said.

"It's about showing them there are other aspects to their life."

Mr Stewart has formed a group in Gladstone called Insight Men's Circle, which focuses on helping men open up and share their feelings and problems in a supportive environment.

For the men who come along to the group, anything shared is greatly respected.

When asked whether he believed it helped, Mr Stewart said simply: "Absolutely, and it may not necessarily be, 'I feel like killing myself'. It can just be a sense of talking about, 'This is what's going on in my life at the moment'."

For families who have lost loved ones to suicide, Mr Stewart said it was essential to talk about it with someone trustworthy.

"For people who are close to someone who has committed suicide, the risk for them to commit suicide increases dramatically."

The most important thing for people to remember is that there is help available, and Mr Stewart's overall advice is something for all to remember.

"Seek support," he said. "Don't do it alone."

Topics:  fifo gladstone paul stewart suicide suicide prevention

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