Asking someone if they are suicidal can be a tough but necessary question that can liberate a person and encourage them to seek help, the CEO of Lifeline says.
Australia has come far in erasing the stigma of mental illness, but more can be done to encourage emotional care, Lifeline CEO Pete Shmigel told The Huffington Post Australia.
Shmigel, who appeared alongside musician and Lifeline Ambassador Dara Hayes (AKA DJ Tigerlily) said If you're worried someone is having suicidal thoughts, get them to a GP.
"Get them to a doctor," Shmigel said.
"If you're really worried about somebody -- and this sometimes sounds a bit controversial -- I actually encourage people to do the following: ask the suicide question. 'Are you suicidal?'"
"It sounds sometimes like that's a little bit provocative, but it's actually a safe question to ask. You can't instigate somebody into suicidal behaviour by what you say and what you do. We know that by asking the question, most people who hear it feel liberated by the question."
Hayes was announced as Lifeline's ambassador in July, and she and Shmigel will run the New York Marathon for the organisation in November.
The 24-year-old DJ, who has been in Australia for just nine weeks this year thanks to a tough touring schedule, said relying on family and friends has helped her cope with anxiety and other mental health issues.
"The past two years anxiety and stress have been definitely been the two things that have been difficult for me to deal with," she said.
RUOK? Great question, but what if someone turns around and says 'no, not necessarily.Pete Shmigel, Lifeline CEO
The intense touring schedule -- which sometimes involves multiple flights a day and nights in strange hotels -- has at times left her with feelings of negativity towards her job, herself and those close to her.
"The best thing in the world is that I'm really lucky, I have a really great support network of family and friends, and I'm always able to reach out to them and talk to them, and they're really great at listening without judgment."
Shmigel praised the conversation around mental health in Australia, and said offering a loved one the chance to air their feelings without judgement was key.
"We've made it a long way," he said.
"RUOK? Great question, but what if someone turns around and says 'no, not necessarily.''"
"Listen without judgment, just be there for that person in their moment, in their pain, don't give advice. Just listen and be supportive and give unconditional positive regard, which is a fancy way of saying love."