Local suicide prevention charity OzHelp Foundation has partnered with ConNetica, the Salvation Army’s Hope for Life program and the National Institute of Mental Health Research at the Australian National University to create a new initiative called Lifeboat, which focuses on suicide prevention rather than crisis intervention.
Lifeboat will be launched at the National Suicide Prevention Conference starting in Perth on Wednesday.
ConNetica director and adjunct professor John Mendoza said suicide was a terrible burden on families, communities and organisations and it was “simply unacceptable” to have more than 50 Australians a week taking their own lives.
OzHelp chief executive Tony Holland said Lifeboat – which will offer a range of programs – aimed to offer a fresh approach to suicide prevention.
“These are not programs for mental health professionals, these are programs for mums, dads, co-workers, coaches, you and I, to give a better understanding of how to keep our world suicide safe,” he said.
“Most of the programs that are currently in place work on pretty much what’s known as the suicide intervention end. Suicide intervention is when you’re working with a heightened or high risk of suicide. They are very important programs because people are in crisis and they offer help.
“What we’ve tried to do though is bring the suicide prevention way back upstream to actually equip people to have worthwhile meaningful conversations with people early to avoid deteriorating into the point of crisis, and that’s what Lifeboat is about.”
The first program launched under the Lifeboat initiative is called Conversations for Life. It focuses on communication and influencing skills required to help people who may be overwhelmed with issues, and not waiting for them to be in a crisis situation.
“It’s very much around having early conversations, teaching people the skills of good conversation around how to actually engage in worthwhile conversations,” he said.
“It’s never too early to have a conversation but it’s good not to have it too late.”
Mr Holland said mental health and suicide was a topic many people still found difficult to raise and Lifeboat aimed to help people feel more comfortable having those conversations.
“These programs are not designed to have us to be mini-experts, they’re designed to help us have good quality conversations but then encourage people to seek referral to other services like counselling or psychology, or even their GP, and therefore actually destigmatise the issues of actually talking about feelings and mental health and encouraging people to get help early,” he said.
If you or someone you know needs support in a crisis or is thinking about suicide contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more information about Lifeboat, visit life-boat.com.au.
This article first appeared on The Canberra Times on 22 July 2014