Home // Latest News // Suicide awareness – how to reach out if you’re concerned about a loved one

Suicide awareness – how to reach out if you’re concerned about a loved one

Georgia Hocking (second from right) with her Dad Paul, sisters Hayleigh and Maddison and brother Ben.

Mornington Peninsula local Georgia Hocking lost her younger brother Ben to suicide in 2016. This week, Georgia will share her story to help raise awareness about suicide, and what people can do to help prevent it, at a free Peninsula Health Forum.

“Really sadly our little brother Ben passed away to suicide and no one saw it coming,” explains Georgia.

“Ben was only 22 years old, he was very happy and very bubbly. After it happened we were just shocked. My older sister shared a post on social media about our grief and it went viral, so from there we started It’s OKAY to not be OKAY.”

Through It’s OKAY not to be OKAY, Georgia and her family use their story to try and help others – by sharing it on social media and in person, at schools and sporting clubs.

“I think people learn through stories, it’s what we’ve been doing for hundreds and thousands of years,” she says.

At the Peninsula Health forum on 9 October, Georgia will be joined on the panel by Shaun Gledhill, Change our Brains, Kate McLoughlin, Chasing Change and Mel Ryan, a Family Carer Peer Worker at Peninsula Health.

“You’ll hear from people who have live experience of suicide and who live on the Peninsula. What we’ll be talking about is pretty specific to the culture, norms and stereotypes in this local area,” says Georgia.

“We’re not interested in making people cry or feel bad. We don’t want sympathy – we want to prevent other people from feeling the horrific, catastrophic pain that we do. In everything I do I am constantly trying to give people tools so that they don’t have to experience this.”

If you can’t make the forum, take a moment to read some of Georgia’s best advice below.

Georgia’s tips for how to help a loved one you’re worried about.

  • Make the conversation more comfortable by doing it while you’re doing an activity.

“Most people don’t do well sitting face to face eye-balling each other,” says Georgia. “So some really good things you can do is go for a walk, as you’re side by side, you’re not looking at each other, or when you’re driving or at an event, in the stands sitting next to each other, or playing a game of Uno. Doing an activity doesn’t put as much pressure on them.”

  • Don’t joke about suicide.

“It’s not ok to joke about suicide. Not only is it offensive, but it adds to the stigma and makes it harder for people who are having suicidal thoughts to come forward because they feel like they aren’t being taken seriously.”

  • If you have noticed a change in a loved one, don’t hesitate to talk to them.

“People are afraid to be nosy. But if you have noticed something about your friend – whether they’re not turning up to training or they’re getting drunk at every party every weekend, or they’ve gone really quiet or they’re always making a joke of everything or maybe they’re eating more or eating less or sleeping more or unmotivated. They may be saying things like life would be a lot better if I’m not here or everybody hates me I’m such a burden there are so many different symptoms. They may have had a dramatic change – whether it’s a break up, moving country, school, failing at something or losing someone. Just asking are you ok? Even asking the people that are closest to them in their life, saying hey I’ve noticed that such and such seems to be really sad all the time, or seems really angry – have you noticed anything? Chatting to the people around them because often people die and then the pieces of the puzzle get put together later – like oh yes they said this or they were doing this or doing that. By checking in with someone else you could make a difference.”

  • Don’t not reach out to someone because you’re scared of saying the wrong thing.

“Get comfortable sitting in silence,” says Georgia. “Let them talk and don’t try to fix their problem, just try to listen and put yourself in their shoes. Everyone wants empathy, no one wants sympathy. Put yourself in their shoes – if I was going through this how would I be feeling? How might this be affecting me? The best thing you can say is probably I don’t even know what to say right now but I’m just glad that you told me. Saying something like that is much more powerful than trying to say why don’t you go to exercise, or go to bed early.”

Suicide Awareness – Peninsula Health Mental Health Service Community Forum, will be held on 9 October 6-7.30pm at Hastings Community Hub. More information is available online here.

There is help available if you or a loved one needs it. You can call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 or the Peninsula Health Mental Health Triage Service on 1300 792 977.