RECORD crowds for the annual Out of the Shadows event reinforces the far-reaching effects suicide has on this city and a growing move to try and tackle the issue at the grassroots, according to Ballarat councillor and policeman Des Hudson.
Out of the Shadows remembers loved ones lost to suicide and aims to change the conversation about suicide in a pre-dawn walk by Lake Wendouree that symbolically finishes as light breaks the darkness.
For the first time, community groups stood united in the walk on Saturday in a bid to strengthen prevention. On such group was the Alfredton Sports and Community Club alliance, recognising the ripples effects felt in every club of what remains a major issue for the region.
World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday carries the theme of working together, everyone having a role to play in collectively addressing the challenges of suicide.
This comes in a time when Ballarat has been rocked by multiple high-profile incidents in the past months and repeated community calls to band together to both talk about suicide and look after each other.
“This was certainly our largest crowd we’ve had...it continues to demonstrate the need for those left behind to find hope,” Leading Senior Constable Hudson said. He is also Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network chairman. “This year there were really tight-knit groups who wanted to say this was an issue for everyone.”
Ninety-two names of people who had completed suicide were read out at a reflection point on the walk.
Ballarat is well-known for its soaring suicide rate. This city has the highest suicide rate in Victoria and the fourth highest of the nation’s biggest cities with 16.7 deaths per 100,000 people each year, as a federal government snapshot released in December showed.
The figure does not take into account the lag in coronial findings or unclear deaths.
Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network, in partnership with Lifeline, is continuing to roll out suicide prevention program SafeTALK training across the community.
The program aims to help more people recognise the warning signs of suicide and encourages people to have open and honest conversations if concerned someone might be having thoughts of suicide.
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Ballarat is also a trial site for a state government suicide prevention program, led by Western Victoria Primary Health Network, working to identify and fill the gaps in health and crisis support services across the region.
Leading Senior Constable Des Hudson said people needed to talk more about suicide to help take away the stigma surrounding the issue. In turn, this helped to support for those affected by suicide too.
He said everyone taking part in Out of the Shadows walk was on their own journey but the event was a safe space with points for reflection, recovery and hope.
The walk, held in partnership with Lifeline, this year introduced pebbles on which to write a loved one’s name before casting into the lake and seeing the ripple effects. Some were tossed lighted, others were heaved in raw emotion but each one had a clear impact.
If you or someone you know needs crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14.
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