Community approach needed for suicide prevention

REBEKAH ROENNFELDT

Brisbane’s World Suicide Prevention Day Community Forum is encouraging everyone in the community to play a part in helping to reduce the incidence of suicide.

Neumann and O'Donovan at the World Suicide Prevention Day Community Forum

AISRAP acting director Analise O’Donovan and Griffith University Applied Psychology Professor David Neumann welcome the forum’s 200 attendees. Photo: Murray Rix

The annual forum, organised by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), was held on September 14 at South Brisbane’s Greek Club.

The theme of this year’s forum was “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”, and its aim was to bring the community together to raise awareness about how everyone can help to prevent suicide.

Event organiser Wendy Iverson said the event, which was open to the public, was a success.

“It was a really excellent day, [with] 200 delegates, and [it was] terrific to see the engagement from such a broad range of community,” Ms Iverson said.

The forum included an opening address from Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic, as well as presentations from researchers in the suicide prevention field, from organisations that support at risk individuals and their families, and from people with a personal experience of suicide attempts.  

She said the aim of the forum was to equip the community with the knowledge to help prevent suicide.

“It is a call to action, to raise awareness that every life is important, that we care, and to reach out to those who are in need of help, not just today, but everyday,” Ms Iverson said.

“Our goal through the delivery of [this forum]… is to reduce stigma of suicide and mental illness, and to save lives,” she said.

One of the speakers at the event was Dr Marianne Wyder, who said she had seen the difference that stronger communities made to people at risk of suicide.

“If we had a stronger community that talked to each other, if you give people another option they will always take that, they just can’t see that other option at that point in time, and so as a community we can start, even sometimes it’s just talking,” Dr Wyder said.

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic made the opening address at the World Suicide Prevention Day Community Forum. Photo: Murray Rix

“It’s really important to raise a wide awareness around suicide, and this is a great day to do that,” she said.

The forum coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day held on September 10.

World Suicide Prevention Day was initiated by former AISRAP director Professor Emeritus Diego de Leo.

It is run by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and is co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation, with events held in more than 80 countries.

Griffith University suicidology lecturer Jacinta Hawgood also spoke at the event about her research into the stigma that surrounds suicide.

Ms Hawgood said in addition to bringing attention to the issue of suicide, the forum showed how everyone could play an important role in suicide prevention.

“World Suicide Prevention Day is critically important to bring global recognition to the importance of preventing suicide, saving lives, and essentially injecting hope where there is little,” she said.

“We can all play a part, even within our own households, our workplaces, or in general community groups.”

Ms Hawgood said she hoped attendees gained the knowledge to help them be comfortable to both ask for help and to offer help to others.

“I hope that our attendees take some evidence-based messages of hope away, to [help them] reach out to others,” she said.

“You don’t need to be a clinical specialist to listen, you just need to be compassionate, forget what others think of you when you ask or offer help, and imagine for one second that because of you, someone’s life was turned around.”

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (www.lifeline.org.au) or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 (www.beyondblue.org.au).

For more information on World Suicide Prevention Day visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention website.

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