Fraser Coast suicide prevention a community priority
A NUMBER of organisations and tiers of government have stepped up to the plate in the past week to address high rates of suicide on the Fraser Coast.
The issue has been front-of-mind for community advocacy groups, university academics and the local hospital and heath service after the launch of both an inaugural prevention forum and a 12-month academic study.
This comes after $1.5million of Federal Government funding was announced to establish and maintain a new Headspace satellite centre in Maryborough last week.
More than 20 people attended the first Wide Bay Suicide Prevention and Mental Wellbeing forum held at the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood centre yesterday.
The day was coordinated by Jaie's Journey Inc founder and local advocate Sandra Moran, whose youngest son Jaie Moran took his own life two days after his 22nd birthday.
The event attracted guests and speakers from Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg and Brisbane including help services and those with lived experience.
"We want this to happen every year and get bigger and better," Ms Moran said.
"Although we are discussing some hard topics we are mindful of people's experiences and this is a safe place.
"It is important to raise awareness about suicide and mental health first aid including the different kinds of help services that are available - everyone is different and deals with things differently."
The University of the Sunshine Coast has partnered with the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service to improve access to help for people at risk of taking their own lives.
Lead researcher, USC lecturer in social work Dr Kate Jonathan said a 12-month study would provide Fraser Coast-specific data and map available suicide prevention services and resources in the region.
"It would also determine links between professionals and organisations to aid timely and appropriate referrals and follow-up treatments," she said.
"When someone is suicidal they are desperate. They need to seek professional help and they should be able to know exactly where they can go to get the right support.
"We are talking life and death here. If someone who is at this point has to go from one agency to another and does not get help or a solution, it can be devastating."
Dr Jonathan was spurred on after she identified suicide rates as a problem for the area and started looking for local data in January 2017.
"I couldn't find data that I feel was reasonable to work with," she said.
"I see this as my contribution to my community, it is an issue and to do anything about it we need accurate data to get a clear picture and help make suicide prevention help simpler and more easily accessible."
Researchers are currently conducting one-on-one interviews and hold focus group sessions with professional services, agencies and organisations involved in suicide prevention, including mental health providers and front-line health services.
Dr Jonathan said the mental health sector, GPs and hospital emergency departments were often the first to become aware when someone was exhibiting suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
"However, because suicide still carries a stigma, those at risk of taking their own lives or self-harming may find it too intimidating or complex to seek help from these more formal sectors," she said.
"If people don't feel that they can share their problems with health professionals, it is paramount that they are aware of other local agencies or services they can go to for help."
The research team also includes the WBHHS's clinical director of addiction medicine, mental health and specialised services Associate Professor Kees Nydam and senior psychologist and UQ Rural Clinical School lecturer Daniel Banos Illan.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131114.