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Jess McNamara

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Ask the Advocate: When things seem hopeless

For many of us, life was tricky, if not outright difficult before COVID-19 and restrictions came along. For many of us, the restrictions and the consequences made us question and wonder what’s coming next? Can we do this? Everything is changing so fast – there’s no jobs – what is the point of anything? Our thoughts can become laden with judgement and despair.

Thoughts and attempts of suicide are often linked with mental ill health. But not always. Suicide may be derived as a solution when life becomes ‘too hard’ or ‘hopeless’.
But if we talk to people who have survived suicide attempts, or people close to someone who has died, and people who have experienced the very worst life can throw at us and not attempted suicide, we can learn a lot more about suicide, and even more about how we may keep on going.

There’s a few tricks we can learn from people who survive.

Firstly, the popular psychology analogy “emotions are like weather” is pretty much a universal human experience. This emotion we have right now? It is already leaving us. We can wait it out, or hurry it up. But there is no point in trying to hang on to it.

This applies to life more broadly, too. Events like days pass us by. Ok, so we have just lost our job. Right now, we have no income. So, what next? We could dwell on the injustice and the hardship. Or, we can choose to explore our options.

We need to notice how we judge ourselves and our lives and how our thoughts reflect these judgements. Are our thoughts spiralling? If we recognise that all of this is temporary, we can step out of the spiral. We can think, “this will pass”. And with that thought, there will be relief, and hope.

Secondly, talk and listen to other people. Yep, listen is in there, too. We can learn so much from each other. And trying to genuinely understand another person and being a support for them provides richness in your own life. In turn, they will listen to and understand you.

Talking to others about your fears and hopes will help you with perspective, as well as strategies. Remember you were worrying about how you would afford groceries? Well, now you have learnt that Services Australia (Centrelink) has a whole raft of emergency payments available, and you can get help applying from the local financial counsellor, and the financial counsellor can provide you with food hampers, and also your friend knows this person who is looking for someone to start work… How did your friend know all this? They’ve been where you are right now. Yes, they got through. They got through by reaching out and taking that first step.

Sometimes, our friends are in the same boat as us, and they aren’t ready or able to talk or listen, in a way that is helpful for you. That’s where professionals can be helpful. There is so much free support out there in the community right now. Tell someone you need help, and you will be directed to where you can find it. Ask your doctor, your hairdresser, your lecturer, another student. Anyone. Ask. At Uni, our counsellors are available for you. So am I. Please ask. At the end of this article, I have included important contact details. Please bookmark the White Ribbon webpage on your browser and have a quick look at all of the links they provide.

Finally, it’s ok to be who you are and experience what you are feeling right now, whatever that may be. Uncertainty and worry about the future is normal. Yes, it will be a challenge – it has always been a challenge. Change happens. We can be curious and open to it. We can look for how we can find our place in it. We can choose to lead a life that matters. We are all in this together, and together, we will get through. This won’t be easy. It won’t always be fun or comfortable. That’s life. The thing is, there’s always, somewhere, joy, love, and hope.

Important contact details:
Your student advocate: Michelle call or text 0413 430 822, email

Your Uni counsellors:
Appointments are made online here
Opening hours 9am – 5pm weekdays (Closed on public holidays)
Telephone (+61) (03) 5444 7223
Out of Hours Mental Health and Wellbeing Support, call 1300 146 307 or text 0488 884 100
(5pm - 9am weekdays, 24 hours weekends, and public holidays)

Bendigo Family & Financial Services/Financial counselling: call 5441 5277
State wide support services contact details, including trauma counselling, family violence support, and the suicide call back service