CITY of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh says we need to collectively tackle the suicide crisis in this region without fear.
Cr McIntosh was briefed at Town Hall on Wednesday from those leading a state government funded placed-based suicide prevention trial in Ballarat. The trial underway brings together workers on health and welfare frontlines, people with lived experience and a wide cross-section of community leaders to find gaps to help across the city and to determine preventative actions, building on existing services, moving forward.
Alarming figures released last week show Ballarat's male suicide rate is 30 per cent higher than the state average, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The statistics are terrible, but they also create opportunity - opportunity for our community and those with passion to change the trajectory.Sean Duffy, Ballarat Community Health chief executive officer
Cr McIntosh said it was an important step that people were talking about the issue, not just in the trial but as a community.
"What this says to me is there is a great deal of awareness," Cr McIntosh said. "We have a great group of experts with their understanding and skill...What we're seeing here is there can be a much better response if everyone is working together towards positive outcomes.
"At the same time we can't ignore the challenges and statistics in our community."
Western Victoria Primary Health Network is conducting the trial with Ballarat Community Health chief Sean Duffy as chairman of the leadership group.
Mr Duffy, who has an extensive career in welfare, said suicide was a social problem as well as a health problem and greater support was imperative from all levels of government. But community buy-in was essential.
"There aren't many people in the community in this community who have not been directly affected by suicide in some way," Mr Duffy said. "The statistics are terrible, but they also create opportunity - opportunity for our community and those with passion to change the trajectory."
Mr Duffy said there was no short-term fix but the trial was working to build on the right foundations and support systems in place for education and engaging families in need.
Community engagement was one of the biggest hurdles for suicide prevention networks across the state, according to those who met to share ideas in a Ballarat forum earlier this month.
Mornington Peninsula member Andrew Joseph said at the core, all different personal and professional experience helped in tackling a complex issue. Mr Joseph said those in the networks were united in a commonality of loss but also a passion for hope and change - this showed in the way they persisted to make a difference.
Buninyong football president Phillip Wilson and vocal suicide prevention champion John Shanahan say there is a need for more talk and breaking the stigma to encourage people, particularly when it comes to men, to feel more comfortable in speaking up and seeking help. Buninyong and Clunes hosted a football match earlier this month to promote support in honour of Mr Shanahan's son who died by suicide in late 2016.
Western Victoria PHN chief Leanne Beagley said there was no "cookie cutter" approach to suicide prevention. This would not work and has not worked in the past.
Dr Beagley and Cr McIntosh say Ballarat efforts must be tailored to this community and diverse enough to meet individual needs. Dr Beagley was confident a united front and integrated approach would make an impact in lowering the city's suicide rate.
Where to find help
There is a wealth of professional support for men to seek help for mental or physical help. The key message is that you are not alone.
This are not limited to, but can include:
Lifeline: 13 11 14 for 24 hours/seven days a week crisis support or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
Mens line: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
Solider On: 1300 620 380
Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex)
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