Sarah Wilson has said the “kindness of strangers” or friends a couple of times removed have “saved” her in the past during a discussion of how to help people at risk of suicide.
The self-help author appeared on Q+A on Monday night for a discussion on ‘The Age of Loneliness’.
Wilson was responding to a mother who said her son had taken his own life in 2017.
“He had numerous neighbours, friends and various organisations that he was in,” the mother said.
“It appears he kept his worries to himself, not really opening up to anyone.”
She asked the panel how people can help someone they’re worried about.
“I was just going to say, in terms of what to do if you feel you don’t know a direct connect, I can speak from experience that it’s often been the kindness of strangers, or friends that are a couple of times removed that have saved me,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she didn’t know if it was because it was “easier” to be approached by people a few times removed from her, but she said: “They were the ones brave enough.”
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“And maybe it is easier when you’re not intimately connected. But absolutely, I have appreciated it and I would say it saved me several times.
“And the one other thing I would say is when you‘re in that position, sometimes you do need to be told what you need to be asked.
“And so I wouldn‘t be afraid of asking the question because quite often you’re in a space where you can’t make those judgments for yourself, so you feel very safe somebody has made that judgment for you.”
Monday night’s episode of Q+A featured Wilson, psychologist Hugh Mackay, Gotcha4Life founder Gus Worland, Michelle Lim of Ending Loneliness Together and Rosemary Kayess from the Disability Innovation Institute UNSW.
Ms Kayess said critical care decisions that emerged around the peak of the coronavirus crisis made her feel like her “life wasn‘t valued” and she was “dispensable”.
Ms Kayess, the Associate Director of Disability Innovation Institute UNSW said disabled and elderly people were treated like “collateral damage” while overcrowded hospitals around the world had to triage critical patients.
“Well, it was such a visceral reaction that I had. It was so in my face that I was dispensable. My life wasn‘t valued. And I was dispensable,” Ms Kayess said.
“Now I had this illusion that I was … doing a pretty good job with my life, working and I own my home, and I love my family, and I‘ve got friends and thought I was contributing, but when it came down to it, I was dispensable.
“I was not one of the real people. And, yeah, it hit me in the face.”
Host of Q+A, Hamish Macdonald, looked visibly distressed as Ms Kayess spoke, telling her, “I’m sorry”.
“Look, I was not alone,” she said. “I mean, I think you speak to anybody with a disability, when that triage stuff was happening. And how do you think older people feel?
“Older people are really only ending up in aged care systems because of their impairments. And so, yeah, from the word go it‘s been reinforced to them.
“They’re the collateral damage.”