The achievements, challenges and limitations of community-driven suicide prevention efforts were profiled at a workshop in Perth yesterday, ahead of today’s official opening of the National Suicide Prevention Conference.
The Communities Matter: Empowering community-driven suicide prevention workshop was over-registered, filling out the venue in the Pan Pacific with community workers from around Australia.
Matthew Giles writes:
Some extraordinary stories of personal commitment and determination were shared at the workshop.
Participants heard from Genean Beetson, who was a funeral director in western Sydney when she noticed a spike in deaths by suicide bringing families to her business.
She had the role of community leader in suicide support thrust upon her, and her response was to hold a community meeting, which led to the formation of Support After Suicide, as explained on the organisation’s website:
“A group of dedicated people have been working since that first meeting back in 2008, much work and research has been carried out and the group remains strong and determined to make a difference in Western Sydney for people effected by suicide and to offer support for those struggling suicide thoughts.”
Her comments about the importance of compassion resonated.
The workshop also heard from other speakers whose families had been affected by suicide deaths who looked outward to their communities to see what they could do.
One theme from the workshop was that the strength of community-based approaches to suicide prevention is that they are agile. Communities know their people, they know their problems, and they can adapt general strategies to their particular needs. First, though, they must feel empowered to do so.
The workshop also heard about the challenges facing community-based, non-profit organisations.
In an underfunded sector, the principle resource is the ability to get stuff done. Like any resource, it can be cultivated – and should be, according to Ngaree Ah Kit, from the Darwin Region Indigenous Suicide Prevention Network.
But there can be a downside. Numerous speakers and attendees underlined the importance of overworking oneself or others, and maintaining friendly, even loving relationships with one’s co-workers.
Some participants also expressed frustration: one attendee said the siloed structures of mental health funding and treatment bodies were mismatched with the lived experience of people affected by mental health problems and suicide.
Concern was also raised about the challenges of determining what works.
Kimberly suicide prevention consultant Dameyon Bonson reminded the workshop that many of the strategies described throughout the day were not suitable for Indigenous communities, especially remote communities.
He also cautioned against over-burdening Elders.
Meanwhile, Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Sue Murray gave a preview of a new toolkit – still in draft form – that is is designed to turn conversations about suicide in the community into grass roots action on prevention.
The Communities Matter toolkit reflects the principle that suicide prevention is everyone’s business.
The workshop also heard about the value of network analysis.
And, finally, some thanks and reminders about the importance of self-care.
For help or more information
For people who may be experiencing sadness or trauma, please visit these links to services and support
• For young people 5-25 years, call kids help line 1800 55 1800
• For resources on social and emotional wellbeing and mental health services in Aboriginal Australia, see here.
• You can track Croakey’s coverage of the conference here.