We lose 8 people a day to suicide in Australia. That adds up to a staggering 3000 people a year. It will be surprising to many to learn that suicide is the highest killer of Australians between the ages of 15-44. The effects of which are devastating and can cause a ripple effect that lasts a lifetime for friends and family.
One of the most terrifying things about a suicidal crisis is that you never think it will happen until it does. Because of this, it is extremely important to know the signs of mental fatigue and early indicators of a mental illness.
We were fortunate to speak to Mental Wellness Advocate and Keynote speaker Donna Thistlethwaite on being proactive with mental health to prevent a mental health crisis such as suicide. Donna has dedicated her life to mental health and uses the story of her own attempted suicide to educate people on the importance of maintaining a healthy mind.
Donna had what would appear as the perfect life to the outside world in 2012. She had a loving family, great career and no diagnosis of mental illness. Despite this, it only took 7-10 days to spiral mentally and attempt to end her life by jumping from Brisbane’s Story Bridge from which she miraculously survived. She kept the events of that day a secret for almost 5 years before finally opening up to the event.
“My mental health crisis began with a triggering event. For most of my life I had feelings of not being enough and being disconnected. I had an argument with someone at work which triggered my belief that I wasn’t good enough. That became the lens that I looked at everything through in the following 7-10 days”.
“I didn’t speak about it for years until I realised that I felt disconnected because I carried a big dark secret everywhere with me. I started to share it when I felt appropriate to do so and found that I felt better after talking and use it to help others. I started to feel more connected with myself when I could own the experience”.
Yumm was created out of a need for improved primary intervention strategies to help combat the onset of mental health disorders. After hearing Donna’s story, we asked her about what she now knows as early indicators of poor mental health in her experience. She could recall a number of indicators which you can see below.
- Stopped exercising
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty focusing
- Withdrew from people
Something that we believe strongly in at Yumm is a proactive attitude towards mental health. We were delighted to see that this is also something that Donna preaches in her work as a mental wellness advocate!
“I think we need to be on a mission to be as mentally well as we can in our lives. The more tools that we have in our resilience toolkit, the greater the likelihood that we can respond to any challenge that comes our way”.
“We live on a wellbeing spectrum ranging from struggling to surviving and then thriving. We need to find things that keeps us in the thriving space so that when we face a significant life obstacle, we fall back into the surviving space. Problems arise if we’re spending too much time in the surviving space because a significant life obstacle can cause us to fall back to struggling. Struggling is a risky place to be and is where we’re at our greatest risk of a mental health crisis. Aiming for the thriving space will manage your risk and help you have the best possible life”.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to get the help they need before they go through a significant mental health crisis. We asked Donna to give us some advice from her own lived experience recovering from an attempted suicide to help those who are going through the same situation.
“Never give up. It is our birth right to feel mentally well and fulfilled in life. You have to keep going until you find that. What clicks for every person is different. It is a life-long journey and the key is never stopping until you actually feel well and at peace”.
Tips for recovery
- Have hope
- Try different things until you find something that works
- Know that it will get better
- Speak up
Donna works full time as a mental wellness advocate and speaker. She offers a range of services such as Mental Health First Aid training, resilience workshops and inspirational keynotes for organisations and conferences. We strongly recommend heading over to her website and seeing the full extent of her amazing work!
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support.