"We Didn't Talk About It": Campaign Launches To End Suicide Silence

2866 people in Australia died by suicide in 2016.

WARNING: This post discusses suicide.

When Hayley Pye's older brother Grant killed himself in 2002, it understandably devastated the family.

He was a 28-year-old shearer in rural NSW, a "man's man", and depression was something that wasn't really known, much less spoken about.

"Looking back now, there were so many signs that we didn't pick up on," Hayley told ten daily.

"He had lost a lot of weight, he had become withdrawn from his friends and social activities, he just wasn't himself.

"Unfortunately back then, depression wasn't something that we knew about, and certainly wasn't something that we spoke about."

That's something Australia's leading mental health bodies are working to change.

Launched on Thursday, the #YouCanTalk campaign aims to empower people to speak to their loved ones about suicide, and to act as the 'eyes and ears' in spotting the early warning signs.

It's the first time beyondblue, Black Dog Institute, Everymind, Headspace, Lifeline, ReachOut and R U OK? have all worked together on suicide prevention.

"Our message is this: #YouCanTalk about suicide," said beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman.

"Half the population think that they can't. We are on a mission to partner with the community to prevent suicide in this country."

It follows a landmark survey of almost 3000 Australians, which found although people want to help prevent suicide, most believe they need to be a professional in order to do so.

More worryingly, about 40 percent of people believe simply asking somebody about suicide could prompt them to do so in the first place.

It's these narratives that leading mental health bodies are trying to change -- and fast. In 2016, 2866 people died by suicide in Australia.

"Suicide is not a silent killer," said Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan.

"There are signs that we can all look out for, particularly when it comes to young people, who have a range of life stresses that may be masking something deeper."

Source: Beyond Blue.

Those conversations can be tricky -- not to mention downright terrifying -- according to Network Ten journalist and presenter, Brad McEwan.  The beyondblue ambassador has often approached friends and loved ones to ask the simple question: are you okay?

"I've never had a negative experience," he told ten daily.

"People are often touched, that you cared so much to ask. They then often open up."

He lost both his brother and his father to suicide about two decades ago, and that experience has left him "paranoid" to warning signs in other people. He says it's important to find the right time to talk to someone, uninterrupted, and to be prepared that they might be talking about some pretty scary stuff.

"How terrifying is it to wake up one day and not be able to get out of bed, and not know why?"

Brad McEwan lost his brother to suicide in 1989.

"I keep an eye out for everybody," he said.

"Asking, why is that person becoming withdrawn, why is that person drinking more?"

A family touched by suicide has scars that never quite disappear, he said.

"You might not have physical scars," he said, "but the mental scars are there. And they always will be."

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, you can call beyondblue on 1300 224 636, Headspace on 1800 650 890, Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. If it is an emergency, call 000.

To find out more about how you can safely talk about suicide, head to Life In Mind Australia.