Workshop equips participants with the skills to help those contemplating suicide

IF YOU suspect someone might have suicidal thoughts, ask them.

That’s the message from experts who yesterday presented a community education program about practical and lifesaving skills to help others who might be contemplating suicide.

“A lot of people are too scared to ask,” said Lifeline Ballarat program manager Michelle MacGillivray.

“What we know from research is that most people with thoughts of suicide want to have a conversation about it.

“It makes it easy for people to start a conversation with someone they are concerned about if they keep that in the back of their mind.”

WORKSHOP: Lifeline's Michelle MacGillivray educates community members about lifesaving skills to help others who may have suicidal thoughts. Picture: Kate Healy

WORKSHOP: Lifeline's Michelle MacGillivray educates community members about lifesaving skills to help others who may have suicidal thoughts. Picture: Kate Healy

Thirty people yesterday took part in the fourth safeTALK workshop hosted by the Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network.

Sixty people have taken part in the previous workshops, bringing the network close to its goal for the financial year – to educate 100 people about suicide awareness.

Ms MacGillivray said the aim of the workshops was to educate the community about how to keep people safe.

“The first thing is to teach people how to look for signs, what a person might be doing or saying that might indicate thoughts of suicide,” she said.

“The answer is to ask them directly.

“It’s about having a conversation, making the person feel heard and not judged, to listen to their story then work out ways to connect them to services.”

That might be asking if they see a GP and whether they have talked to their doctor, exploring who in their network can help them feel safe, or connecting to community services such as Lifeline.

A broad range of people have taken part in the three-hour workshops including interested community members, people who have been touched by somebody who died by suicide, professionals and those who work with people at risk.

Feedback from the previous sessions has been positive with the program reaching more than just those who have attended. Ms MacGillivray said several had asked for resources to be able to share the strategies they learned with others.

During 2015, 3027 Australians took their own lives by suicide. That is eight per day, or one every three hours. Suicide is the most common cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44.

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