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Opening address from Jaelea Skehan at National Suicide Prevention Conference

23 July 2019

United in Action: Changing the conversation about suicide prevention

It is a privilege to be addressing you briefly this morning as the Director of Everymind and the Principal Sponsor for the 2019 National Suicide Prevention Conference.

It is not usual for us to be a Principal Sponsor at a conference, but at Everymind we are working on a number of local and national suicide prevention programs, two of those, Life and Mind and Mindframe, are funded through the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program which provided us with an important opportunity to take on the role of Principal Sponsor.

With Life in Mind providing a digital platform and communication strategy to support the delivery of best-practice suicide prevention programs, services, research and messaging in Australia we thought it was particularly important to support this national event.

People who know me, will know that suicide prevention is both a personal issue and a professional issue for me, is it is for many of us in this room.

Suicide prevention is my passion, and people at this conference are my people.

When I first started attending National Suicide Prevention Conferences about 16 years ago, we were lucky to get 100 people in the room, with a pretty homogeneous audience of researchers, policy makers and clinicians.

But things have changed. This week we are coming together in Melbourne, united in action, with over 600 people bringing their diverse skills and experiences to share knowledge, listen and learn, question with curiosity about the things we don’t understand and make connections that can enhance local and global action.

Unlike those early conferences, we now have researchers, policy makers, clinicians, national and state commissioners, former and current politicians, people working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, those representing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer communities, business leaders and those delivering workplace programs, technology providers, media, and a very large contingent of people with lived experience of suicide who are changing the conversation.

We also have the largest contingent of Everymind staff that we have ever had at a conference, which is exciting – you will find them at the Everymind booth, and also downstairs in the Communications Hub where you can sign the National Communications Charter.

There is perhaps no more important time for us to come together to discuss suicide prevention and truly be united in action.
We have a fifth national mental health and suicide prevention plan being prepared to go to health minister in the next few months, Victoria is in the middle of Royal Commission hearings and the productivity commission is busily working on its draft report to government.

I’m pleased to note that following through on an election promise, suicide prevention has now been elevated to the office of the Prime Minister, with Christine Morgan appointed as our first ever advisor on suicide prevention to the Prime Minister. This offers an opportunity to truly ensure that a whole of government, whole of system and whole of community approach to suicide prevention is achieved.

But now is not the time for complacency, it is the time to be united in action, which is why I love the theme for this year’s conference.

It is also important to connect people with lived experience of suicide with our policy makers, researchers and service providers to review and improve our current action.

So if you see someone who you know has the ear of the government or policy makers, talk to them. Talk to each other and ensure your voice is heard. Your voice could help shape policy.

Connecting communities with the information and resources they need so they can take action on suicide prevention as well as the right services is vital. So that when people put their hand up to ask for help, it is offered without question, and with compassion.
Addressing the social determinants and risk factors of suicide is also a high priority to ensure that people may never need those services in the first place.

We need to better connect with each other as a sector around our collective concern for suicide in order to achieve truly united action and suicide prevention locally and nationally.

This can be achieved by using a shared language around how we communicate about suicide and suicide prevention and do so in a way that is safe, engages our communities and gives hope.

As a call to action I’d like to ask everyone at the conference to consider signing the National Communications Charter while you are here. You can visit our team in the National Communications Charter Hub, get a picture for social or talk on camera to share your views.

But importantly, signing The Charter is the first step in following through with meaningful action.

I hope everyone has a great week and takes the opportunity to meet new people, listen to the work happening across our country and make connections.

I’d like to thank our team at Everymind who have worked hard behind the scenes with the team at Suicide Prevention Australia to bring the conference together. We have taken our role as principal sponsors very seriously and the team have been active participants in the planning and execution of the conference.

I have been at Everymind for 18 years next month, and the Director for seven years and it never ceases to amaze me how far members of our team will go to support others and support the communities we serve.

Conferences are a great time to reflect on current practice, learn from others and connect with new partners across diverse sectors.

But the true test of how effective these events are will be measured in the changes we enact together over the coming year, so while I’m looking forward to the next few days, I’m most looking forward to the NSPC 2020 with hope and optimism around all that we can achieve in the meantime.

To support The Charter while at NSPC visit: www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au/SupportTheCharter

For all live updates and videos from NSPC visit: www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au...

To equip yourself and others on how to have a safe conversation about suicide visit: www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au...