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'It's time to introspect', as many Australian Punjabis end their lives

Mental Health social worker Jatinder Kaur at SBS studios Source: SBS Punjabi

Everyday in Australia, eight people cut their life short by committing suicide. The statistics for 2015 show that there were 3,027 deaths due to suicide in the nation. Mental health social worker Jatinder Kaur says, asking one question at the right time could make a big difference. "Just ask people around you 'Are you ok?', especially if you notice a sudden change in their behaviour."

This Thursday, September 13, will be marked as RU OK Day? around Australia.

According to Lifeline, the overall suicide rate in 2015 was 12.6 per 100,000 in Australia. This is the highest rate in 10-plus years.

Men are at a greater risk because in Australia, deaths by suicide occur among males at a rate three times greater than that for females. However, during the past decade, there has been an increase in suicide deaths by females. 

Brisbane-based social worker Jatinder Kaur says mental health issues like anxiety and depression are at the root of this. She told SBS Punjabi, "there are many recent instances where someone from the Australian Punjabi community has abruptly ended their life because of ongoing mental health problems."

"In Brisbane alone, I've heard of three to four Indian international students who have committed suicide in the past few months."

"I'm also aware of a lady aged in her 60's, a grandmother, who has lived in Australia for over three decades, who ended her life recently. She had never been able to accept the death of her daughter and had on-going mental health issues due to that."

Ms Kaur says the main purpose of this interview with SBS Punjabi and reason for mentioning these cases is to educate the community on how to spot mental illness and know where and how to receive help.

"Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged between 15 and 44," she says.

"Statistics reveal that 200 people in Australia attempt suicide everyday."

"This includes the young and the old, men and women - all demographics. My advice to everyone, especially in the Punjabi community where talking about mental health issues is almost a taboo subject, is to ask someone 'Are You OK'?"

Emphasising the importance of the 'R U OK' approach, Ms Kaur stresses, "If you notice anyone showing the first signs of mental illness, or if they're talking about taking their own lives, just talk to them first, and refer them to the free services available."

Explaining the symptoms and first signs of mental illness, Ms Kaur mentions the following:

  • Hopelessness
  • Isolation
  • Sudden mood changes - quick to anger
  • Substance abuse - such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other substances.
  • Self-harm
  • Risk-taking behaviour 

"If you think someone close to you is displaying these symptoms, take them to the GP. The GP can put them on a mental health care plan, that gives them six free visits to a psychologist or a mental health care worker.

'You can also take them to a hospital if things are bad, because every hospital in Australia has a mental health unit. 

"And if you recognise the above symptoms in yourself, please call free helplines like Lifeline and Beyond Blue."

"I urge the community to really adopt the R U OK approach, and look out for one another - rather than have regrets later in life when something drastic happens."

If you are experiencing a personal crisis and need someone to talk to, please call:

Lifeline on 13 11 14 or

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636


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