A mental health project launched in Launceston aims to lower the incidents of suicide in Tasmania’s rural areas.
According to Lifeline, suicide is the leading cause of death for Tasmanians under 45, and the state has the second highest rate of male suicide and the highest rate of female suicide in Australia.
The Healthy and Resilient Communities Initiative, run by Rural Alive and Well (RAW), is encouraging 20 rural communities across Tasmania to develop and implement wellbeing and suicide prevention plans.
RAW CEO Daniel Rochford said working directly with small communities was the best way to tackle the problem from the bottom up.
“Socially connected and more resilient communities are those communities where we see less suicides, and that’s what this project is all about,” he said.
Mr Rochford said the program was essential to empowering smaller communities to combat the high rate of suicide in Tasmania.
“Unfortunately, the tragic statistics are very sad for Tasmania,” he said.
“We have the second highest rates of suicide in the nation, the highest for women in the nation.
“These statistics are an absolute tragedy.”
Positive outcomes from pilot project
The project was initially piloted in Bothwell, a small town in Tasmania’s Central Highlands.
One of the measures used in Bothwell was having the local cricket team have weekly meetings for players to open up.
“Just out of one night we’ve learnt to look out for each other and to not be ashamed of mental illness.” – Anita Campbell
Bothwell resident Anita Campbell said her community experienced three tragic events to do with mental illness.
“Our community came together to decide to learn more about mental illness and support those families that have been bereaved by mental illness,” she said.
The project was initially piloted in Bothwell, where one of the measures included the local cricket team organising weekly meetings for the players to open up.
“Basically, just out of one night we’ve learnt to look out for each other and to not be ashamed of mental illness,” she said.
Mr Campbell said such simple measures were already making a difference to the town’s understanding of the issue.
Mr Rochford said these are the results community engagement and discussion around mental health can bring.
“That’s what the core of this project is about – harnessing community passion, getting them more resilient, and more importantly looking out for one another,” he said.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 19 February 2016.