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Date PostedAugust 30, 2014

White Card Update: Importance of Suicide Awareness as Public Health Issue

If one good thing has come out of the tragic death of comedic legend Robin Williams it is the awareness that is being raised around the topic of suicide and suicide prevention. Unfortunately it has also highlighted how little most of us know about the issue.

According to an article on WAToday.com.au suicide prevention is an important issue particularly because Lifeline has predicted that the rate of suicide is at a 10 year high.

In fact according to the Bureau of Statistics 2535 suicides occurred in 2012 and it accounted for the most number of deaths among males and females between 15 and 44 years.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the prediction by Lifeline that as many as 30 people attempt suicide daily with 250 people making a suicide plan. An additional 1000 people consider suicide each day.

Although the topic is one that many have tried to raise awareness around including former Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry, the death of Robin Williams recently has sparked conversation around the issue, such as the article on WAToday.com.au and this one.

Now the concern has arisen that people may copy the behaviour of Williams, as it is common for people to mimic the behaviour of celebrities as reported in the media. The following excerpt from the WAToday.com.au article explains:

1408193708978.jpg-620x349The Australian government funds an organisation called the Mindframe National Media Initiative, managed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, to provide media guidelines on suicide reporting. This is partly to address the fear of “contagion” or “cluster” – the concept that a person learning of a suicide will be encouraged to copy that behaviour.

The data indicates only a small proportion of all deaths by suicide can be linked to contagion. There is little evidence to suggest sensitive and accurate reporting of suicide inspires others to follow.

The exception is the celebrity suicide, which explains why there has been so much concern over the reporting of how Williams died.

McGorry has suggested the media guidelines, while well-intentioned, actually represent “anxiety-driven science” and inhibit proper, healthy discussion about suicide.

Regardless, it seems rules and consideration have been set aside in the media frenzy which has followed Williams’ death.

Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/comment/robin-williams-death-shows-suicide-must-be-treated-as-a-serious-public-health-issue-20140815-104gwz.html#ixzz3AqgV86sa

There are fears that rules around reporting of suicides are been ignored when it comes to the Williams suicide.

One Fox News anchor labelled Mr Williams a “coward” and another controversial message by the Oscars Academy referenced William’s role as genie in the 1990s smash hit movie Aladdin with the words “You’re free”.

Others in the industry also accused Williams of hurting the public despite raising awareness around the topic of depression.

I find the topic of suicide a particularly concerning one for the construction industry because construction workers are often not encouraged to engage in open communication which often leads to them hiding their problems and rather contemplating suicide than seeking help.

Given the high risk nature of construction work coupled with the pressure of everyday life as well the macho nature of the work environment,  construction workers have been identified as “high risk” when it comes to suicide.

Hopefully the death of Williams will encourage others who are suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies to seek help before it is too late.


Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

Posted in White Card, White Card Construction Site Safety Articles, White Card NSW


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