Mental health course starts conversation

A conversation has started in the community with the intention of raising awareness of a major and preventable cause of death.

A practical experience was recently provided to a group wanting to learn the skills and knowledge required to have a conversation with a suicidal person.

In recent times the passing of a number of much loved and admired members of the community through suicide have caught the attention of the wider community.

Advocating for conversations to take place is the Wattle Range Suicide Prevention Network which recently hosted Angela Gosden to facilitate the course to a fully booked group of participants.

Developed by Mental Health First Aid, the course provided a three-step process to potentially save a life. The three key actions were identified as ask, keep safe and connect.

“The first step in starting the conversation is to ask,” Ms Gosden said.

“If you think someone is suicidal, ask them directly.

“Even if you have a mild suspicion that a person is having suicidal thoughts, you should still approach them.

“Unless someone tells you, the only way to know is to ask.”

However, Ms Gosden acknowledged there would be those who felt unable to ask directly.

“Sometimes people are reluctant to ask directly, instead, allow them the chance to talk about their problems and show them that somebody cares,” she said.

The course covered learning how to identify the warning signs for suicide.

Discussion covered how to confidently support a person in crisis, help the person stay safe and connect them to appropriate professional help.

Questions surrounding having a conversation about suicide were reflected in an activity where participants were asked what they know about suicide and what they wanted to know.

Participants were encouraged to note their thoughts and questions.

Some questions included how to recognise changes in behaviour, what are contributing risk factors, how to ask someone if they are having suicidal thoughts and where to seek help.

Other group discussion activities included unpacking stigma and myths around suicide.

Ms Gosden shared data on the facts on suicide in Australia.

Though data stated men are at greater risk, higher rates have been recorded in regional areas and young people have the highest rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts, suicide does not discriminate.

Suicide has affected both males and females of any age and demographic.

Ms Gosden said thoughts of suicide were common, but they were not always acted upon.

“These are mental health first aid actions any member of the public can take to reduce the risk of a person acting on thoughts of suicide,” she said.

“These actions can help to keep a person safe until a trained professional can assist the person with any underlying mental health problems or other difficulties.”

The WRSPN secured funding from Wellbeing SA to deliver the course for free to the community.

Some of its members have previously completed this course and highly recommend it to help people have more confidence in having the hard conversation with family and friends.

A further two courses are being held in May and June.

A limited number of places are left for the May 15 session being held in Millicent.

Contact the WRSPN at wattlerangespn@gmail.com for more information and to register for the June 19 session at Beachport.

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