Organisations across the Sunshine Coast are joining forces to help prevent suicide, with the Alliance for Suicide Prevention – Sunshine Coast growing to 50 alliance partners since its launch in February this year.
The alliance was formed by USC’s Sunshine Coast Mind & Neuroscience Institute – Thompson Institute, and brings together a network of community groups and organisations across a range of sectors that are committed to preventing suicide.
Research fellow in suicide prevention Dr Amanda Clacy says on average, one person per week dies by suicide on the Sunshine Coast, which is higher than the national average.
“For every Australian that takes their own life, 100 people are impacted,” she says, noting that four in five local suicides are men.
“The Coast has plenty of organisations, support groups and community groups working in this space, but until now they’ve not necessarily been interconnected or worked together.”
The aim of the alliance is to share knowledge and resources and offer a comprehensive picture of the support available to Sunshine Coast residents.
“By unifying and synchronising suicide prevention on the Sunshine Coast, we can remove help-seeking obstacles, connect people with the right services, provide a range of relevant training and education opportunities, and destigmatise how suicide is discussed and treated,” Dr Clacy says.
Thompson Institute director Professor Jim Lagopoulos says the alliance is modelled on the European Alliance Against Depression because of its grounding in evidence.
“The European model has very strong evidence to show that it reduces the rate of suicide and it does so by reducing the rate of depression,” he says.
“We know there is a very strong link between depressive symptoms and suicidality and so the idea is that if we can reduce the rate of depression, we can identify it, we can put people into care, and we have discernible impact on suicidality on the Sunshine Coast.”
The alliance is focusing on providing suicide prevention training for members of the community, building public awareness on depression and mental health and promoting a collaborative voice on issues of critical importance to the Sunshine Coast region.
A survey conducted by the Thompson Institute found 75 per cent of respondents would talk to their friends and family about mental health concerns, but 80 per cent of people were also either unsure or did not believe that their friends or family had the skills to identify a mental health problem and provide support.
Dr Clacy says the findings highlight the need for the public to increase their awareness of mental health issues and gain the skills needed to support those close to them.
“These may not even be skills we know we need, but the people around us may need us to have them,” she says.
“It is important that more people in the community have the skills to identify someone who might be struggling with mental health so they know how to start the conversations that can really help those people.”
There are a number of ways to connect with the alliance. On an individual level, you can attend free suicide awareness training every month, to learn how to identify when a person might be struggling and connect them to professional help.
Organisations can host suicide prevention training programs for their workplaces and Sunshine Coast health professionals can access subsidised advanced suicide awareness training delivered by the Black Dog Institute through the alliance.
The alliance also welcomes new partners to integrate suicide prevention strategies into their organisation.
“We have built up to 50 alliance partners and there are around 1800 staff employed within those organisations, so approximately 130,000 people will be in contact with those organisations in a year,” she says.
“When we look at the potential for extrapolation of information, it gets very big, very quickly and the more organisations we have as alliance partners who are integrating suicide prevention into their training schedules we are accessing.”
Here to help
If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty, there are more resources available.
Beyond Blue offers 24/7 support. Call 1300 224 636 or visit beyondblue.org.au.
Lifeline also offers 24/7 help. Call 131 114 or visit lifeline.org.au.