When we are not taking care of our psychological and emotional wellbeing we can find ourselves in a dark place.
When we are not taking care of our psychological and emotional wellbeing we can find ourselves in a dark place. laflor

People at risk may show it, so watch for signs

What do you do to look after your health and overall wellbeing? Are you someone who is generally active and takes part in regular exercise, eats well and looks after themselves?

Many of us may pay attention to our physical health - but how much do you do for your mental health?

When we talk about mental health we are really describing our psychological and emotional wellbeing and how well we are coping in life; our ability to ride the regular ups and downs and challenges that we all experience along the way.

My choice of topic is partly because it has been Mental Health Week in Queensland and in NSW October is Mental Health Month. And because it coincides with the release of a new report about the number of deaths by suicide which has risen by about 9per cent. That's about eight people every day in Australia and 75 per cent of them are male and most age groups and demographics are affected.

While you may think it's a big leap to go from writing about mental health and then to suicide, the point is that when we are not taking care of our psychological and emotional wellbeing and find ourselves in a dark place we may entertain suicidal thoughts - 1 in 17 people have.

The reasons why people take their own life are many and complex, often there is a mood disorder or mental illness in the background and there are a variety of supports available for those who seek it.

However therein lies part of the problem. Some believe that admitting they are not thriving or are experiencing dark thoughts and mental struggles is a weakness and therefore are reluctant to talk about it to anyone. Others fear that if they do, they may become stuck in what can be a revolving door or in care that achieves little.

What has become clear with more research is that most people with suicidal thoughts are giving others subtle indicators of their mental state that they want noticed.

But these can easily be missed, dismissed or avoided if others are not paying attention or don't know what to look for. If they are noticed, it offers the opportunity to ask the person if they're OK and also if they are having thoughts of suicide.

While asking that second question may seem confronting if you haven't done it before, it's an important and possibly lifesaving one which, when handled sensitively and non-judgmentally, helps the other person to feel safe and supported and therefore more likely to open up and have a conversation at a time when they most need one.

If you or a loved one need support, Lifeline Australia provides free 24/7 telephone crisis support on 13 11 14.

Rowena Hardy is a facilitator, performance coach and partner of Minds Aligned: mindsaligned.com.au.