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“We need to talk about disability and suicide.”

The launch of the HOPE booklet in Canberra

Richa Sharma Aryal, a Community Development Coordinator with Feros Care, is passionate about tackling the issue of suicide and postvention care in the disability sector.

As a social worker, Richa realised that people often don’t know where to turn when they need support after a loved one dies by suicide.

Richa and Feros Care recently joined forces with national organisation StandBy Support After Suicide to create an information booklet called HOPE.

HOPE provides suicide postvention support and information for individuals, families, friends, witnesses, first responders, service providers, groups and communities impacted by suicide, enabling them to “improve their resilience, functioning and

The booklet, which launched in Canberra in May 2022, is especially unique as it acknowledges the issue of suicide in the disability sector.

“Resources like this so we can support our communities better,” Richa says. “Because I have previously asked about what happens if a person with disability dies by suicide – what do you do? What supports are available?

“Is there any resource you can give me that I can pass on?

“Imagine one of your friends dies by suicide and everyone is grieving, and if I need to find something to help them, how do I find it?

“People don’t know how to support others and what to do.”

“This is something that can save someone else’s life.”

Destigmatising disability and suicide prevention

HOPE has been specially created with an understanding of the impact and stigma people with a disability face when dealing with mental health struggles.

A focus group looking at mental health and wellbeing in the education and employment space for suicide and postvention found that a common stigma is the belief that if a person with a disability dies by suicide, people think it was a “normal”
thing to do, Richa says.

“They believe the person died by suicide because they had a psychosocial disability – that’s the way the community and family thinks and talks about it.

“People don’t really want to talk about disability and suicide.

“There is a huge stigma not just around suicide, but around the disability itself. We don’t talk about the person’s mental health.

“We talk about the things we see, but what about the person’s state of mind when they constantly have to prove themselves and live within a ‘normal’ society?

“A person with a disability has 10 times more challenges then what I have to face. And at some point in their mind, they might think about giving up.”

Richa says it is crucial to start talking about mental health specifically for people living with a disability, and acknowledge that we need to normalise these conversations and focus on mental health support.

“Suicide prevention is for everybody. People with a disability also have emotions and we need to support them better.”

Closing the gap

The booklet, Richa says, aims to fill a gap that exists because people don’t know what supports and services are available. And often, people who are caring for a person with a disability are time-poor and tired out.

“This is the first step in closing that gap. People often don’t know about half of those organisations that are out there.

“They can think, ‘There’s a lot of information out there but how can I – a carer of someone with a disability – look into what’s the best service for my child because I’m already stretched.”

And this is especially relevant for people who are in a vulnerable space after losing someone.

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