Armadale resident and long time Lifeline telephone crisis support worker Frank Ainsley said the advent of drugs like ice have had a huge impact on the growing suicide rate in recent years.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released earlier this month WA has experienced its highest suicide rate in 10 years.
About 394 West Australians took their own lives in 2015 – 292 males and 102 females.
Mr Ainsley has worked in the Lifeline crisis centre for more than 16 years and said he noticed many people he had spoken to had been impacted by drugs in some way.
“A lot of our callers tend to be addicts or ex-addicts,” he said.
“Ice seems to be the one at the moment.
“They do things they wouldn’t normally do and mental illness comes after that and that’s when they consider suicide and sometimes worse things.”
He said he did not know what the answer was to stem the suicide rate but that something needed to be done.
“I don’t know what the answer is but what I do know is it is very important because people are dying that shouldn’t die,” he said.
“When you get to that stage in life that going on living is too hard for you there’s got to be a reason.”
Mr Ainsley said he had taken some tough calls over the years but knowing he had helped people kept him coming back to work.
“I enjoy the people there and to know that you’ve helped somebody is a good feeling,” he said.
“Lots of callers we can’t help but sometimes you get a caller and it really feels like you’ve helped them.
“At the end of the call they’re sounding a lot better than they were and that’s what gets me back.”
He said being a crisis line support worker was emotionally draining so it was important to be able to switch off for his own mental health.
“I remember when I first went on the phones I’d go home and be lying down trying to get to sleep,” he said.
“Then I realised if that’s going to happen it’s going to affect my personal life.
“Now I just switch off and start thinking about other things.”
More than 55,000 West Australians called Lifeline’s crisis support line in 2015-16 and that number was rising.
Lifeline WA chief executive Lorna MacGregor said the statistics formed a stark picture of the immense emotional toll that suicide had on the community and how much was needed to stop it.
“Western Australia must match its prevention efforts and investment to the magnitude of the public health problem we face,” she said.
“Some people suffer persistent thoughts of suicide and what may be a crisis for one person may not be for another,” she said.
If you or someone you know requires assistance call Lifeline on 13 11 14.