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New funding will build community and national capacity for suicide prevention

30 May 2017 Wesley Mission news

Wesley Suicide Prevention ServicesWesley Mission is delighted that community based suicide prevention services have been given vital ongoing support to address one of the nation’s most pressing health and social issues following the Federal Government’s announcement of an increase in prevention funding.

The need is telling: during the past five years an average of 2,415 people died by suicide in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Wesley LifeForce has received $5.64 million in new money for its ground-breaking suicide prevention community networks and $2.14 million for Wesley LifeForce suicide prevention workshops over the next three years.

Wesley Mission is planning to expand its Wesley LifeForce Suicide Prevention Networks to 104 and provide more than 380 suicide prevention training workshops during this time.

Wesley Suicide Prevention Networks are designed to respond to local issues and complement existing supports and services. Currently there are 72 networks across every state encompassing suburban, rural, regional and remote Australia representing 585 network members who live or work in their local communities. 

The networks target high-risk populations in all Australian states and territories, including 12 which are located in Aboriginal communities.

“Wesley Mission facilitates a local, grassroots approach to suicide prevention. Networks are made up of representatives who know their region, understand the local issues, and work to improve community resilience,” said Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Keith Garner. “Local people are best suited to identify local issues and problems and come up with local solutions. We work in partnership with local communities to help them identify and meet their needs.”

The networks provide ongoing support to improve community strength, resilience and capacity in suicide prevention. Wesley Mission’s approach is informed by thorough analysis of suicide, self-harm and social demographic data in each region. Emerging evidence on what works in suicide prevention is continuously sourced from the Wesley LifeForce Advisory Committee and the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.

Once a network is established, Wesley LifeForce support gradually transitions to providing maintenance. Networks also have access to evidence-based resources through the Wesley LifeForce Community Hub. This virtual space contains a Skills Bank, links to suicide prevention experts, service finder and interactive forums.

Wesley LifeForce suicide prevention has trained more than 30,140 people throughout Australia since 1995. A survey of participants between 2013 and 2016 indicated that 15 per cent had used the Wesley LifeForce strategies to support people with suicide ideation within three months of training. By June 2019, Wesley LifeForce is aiming to deliver 387 workshops across the nation, 80 per cent of them in at-risk communities with high suicide rates.

“The targeted training workshops in high risk areas will engage community ‘gatekeepers’ such as health, allied health, social workers, community workers, teachers, emergency service workers and Indigenous community leaders,” Mr Garner said.

“The training helps people with not only suicide ideation intervention skills but takes them a step further in getting access to specialist mental health and allied health support and practical resources.”

A further 20 per cent of workshops will be for training delivered in response to episodic community requests or for targeting high risk groups. Wesley LifeForce training fits seamlessly into the framework that is being developed by the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program.

Wesley Mission has extensive experience in suicide prevention including founding Lifeline in 1963, which is now a national and international movement, providing an immediate response to people in crisis. Operating in Sydney and Sutherland Lifeline, Wesley Mission’s 287 volunteers answer 34,864 calls annually.