A NSW council has become the first in the state to put its name to a national charter on suicide prevention.
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan officially signed the National Communications Charter last week, saying it would provide guidance about how to discuss mental health, reduce stigma and increase support for people in crisis.
The charter, launched last year by the nationally-funded Life in Mind suicide prevention services gateway, promotes a common language in mental health, mental illness and suicide, and provides a framework for talking about suicide without stigmatising or glamorising it.
“We hope this guide will encourage communication about suicide to be personal in tone, focusing on positive messaging and referral pathways, and drawing on lived experience,” Cr Regan told Government News.
“Getting people to take that all important first-step in seeking help, which they may feel extremely reluctant to do, is one of the main goals we are trying to achieve.”
Cr Regan says Northern Beaches Council is the first in NSW to sign the Charter.
“Evidence suggests that if we strip away the taboos around talking about mental health and suicide prevention, it can remove many of the barriers that prevent people from seeking help,” Cr Regan said.
“It is more important than ever that individuals and organisations are equipped with the knowledge and skills to talk about suicide in a safe way.”
Suicide response taskforce
Council is also coordinating the Northern Beaches Suicide Response Steering Group, a collaboration between key organisations and services in the local area.
The steering group was established in June 2018 in response to community concerns about deaths by suicide on the Northern Beaches.
The group’s action plan includes engaging with the community, strengthening referral pathways, provide training, improve skills and resilience, collect data and target suicide risk areas via audits, signage and fencing.
“This (signing of the Charter) builds on the important work we have been doing as lead agency of the Northern Beaches Suicide Response,” Cr Regan said. “The Northern Beaches Suicide Response takes a collaborative approach to a complex issue.”
The community has already been very supportive of these changes, he says.
“We have a very active and engaged community on the issue,” he said. “The reactions from the various groups on the front line is overwhelmingly positive and grateful that their council is taking a lead on the issue.”
Council has also developed an online hub for people seeking information about suicide prevention, providing them with information, services and events.
Spreading the message on waste collection trucks
Meanwhile, Lismore City Council last Thursday marked R U OK? Day by decorating a waste collection truck.
The idea to wrap the truck with the message came from Jody Hinds from Council’s WHS Committee, who wanted to promote the campaign in a visible and public way, and thought the garbage truck would be effective in getting the message across.
“The essence of the campaign is that a simple conversation could change a life,” she said.
“The premise is that if people feel connected to others and have someone to talk to, they can more effectively work through dark times.”
The message will stay on the truck for now. A fuel truck was also decorated with the same message, a spokeswoman told Government News.
Lismore City Council also held an R U OK? breakfast barbecue for staff on Thursday morning, with General Manager Shelley Oldham sharing her personal experience of mental health.
According to the ABS, almost 3,000 people died by suicide each year between 2013-2017.
*For suicide prevention and crisis support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the website.
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