Opinion piece featured in the Newcastle Herald by our Director, Jaelea Skehan.
Suicide is a subject many find difficult to talk about, but it is an issue that is having major impacts on Australian communities, including ours. It has been long understood that to make a real difference, we need to bring all services and all parts of our community together to tackle the issue as one. To send a unified and consistent message to people who are in crisis that they are not alone and that none of us will be better off without them.
We must build a safety net for those who need it by connecting our services and supports, and by building the capacity of people in our community to reach out and offer support, rather than waiting for someone who is thinking about suicide to ask for help. We know for many people, that is difficult.
Suicide prevention is bigger than just one sector. It is about health services, schools, workplaces, the media, governments, families and communities all playing their part. But to play that part, we need to invest in good workforce development so all of these sectors have the knowledge and skills to contribute. No longer is suicide prevention training a skill that just some people need, we all need it.
More than 80 local business leaders attended a corporate breakfast on Tuesday at Noah’s On the Beach to launch the Lifespan Newcastle Suicide Prevention Business Strategy.
LifeSpan is a new evidence-based model for integrated suicide prevention in Australia. Developed by the Black Dog Institute, it involves the simultaneous implementation of nine key strategies to reduce suicide. Newcastle is the first site to trial the approach in NSW and is being led by an alliance of agencies working together locally.
As part of the strategy, local businesses can access effective and very affordable training to help their staff to be skilled and confident in responding to someone in crisis.
At the breakfast, Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes, owner of Hunter Headline Holly Martin, MATES in Mining Manager Andrew McMahon and owner of Pride Dry Cleaning and Laundry Jennie Lyons spoke about why they’re supporting the initiative.
From talking to businesses over the years, I have found that many recognise the importance of suicide prevention initiatives and want to support them, but don’t know what to do or how to get involved.
We know that building a safety net for people in the workplace is critical, given the amount of time that many of us spend at work. But training people in suicide prevention skills also has a flow-on effect for the whole community. People working in local businesses are not just colleagues, but many are parents, sporting coaches, and active participants in family and community life.
I am feeling positive about the response from local businesses but ask as many as possible to consider getting involved. You really never know when some basic skills in suicide prevention will be needed.
If businesses are interested in LifeSpan and finding out more about the practical steps they can take to get started, visit everymind.org.au/lifespanbusiness or call 02 49246900.
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Jaelea Skehan is the director of Everymind and member of the Lifespan Newcastle Leadership Group.