The Bass Coast Suicide Prevention Community Forum highlighted an important shift in the willingness of our community to engage in constructive conversations regarding this critical issue, according to Cr Geoff Ellis.
The Bass Coast Shire councillor was one of many who helped deliver the forum titled ‘Building a community that helps prevent suicide’ at Phillip Island on Friday 11 October.
Sponsored by the Gippsland Primary Health Network (Gippsland PHN) as part of the Place-Based Suicide Prevention Trial project in Bass Coast, funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, the event attracted more than 80 participants.
Cr Ellis, who was Master of Ceremonies, said after the event it was “fantastic to see so many people wanting to learn more about suicide prevention and to contribute towards making a positive difference in our community”.
“I encourage everybody to keep talking about mental health and suicide prevention and I look forward to the next steps in this suicide prevention program in Bass Coast,” he said.
Gippsland PHN Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Proposch, welcomed the community, guest speakers and staff from leading organisations including Bass Coast Shire, Wellways, Lifeline and Gippsland PHN.
Local retired psychologist and men’s health advocate, Terry Melvin, provided the audience with professional insights including an eye-opening suicide myths and facts activity while Lifeline Counselling Manager, Lisa Morgan, was available as a support person for participants.
Leading mental health advocate, Wayne Schwass, spoke about the value of social connection and emotional intelligence. He encouraged everyone, especially men in the audience, to start talking about their thoughts and feelings, and to challenge damaging misconceptions that by showing and expressing emotion, and asking for help, was a sign of weakness.
Beau Vernon shared his story of living with spinal cord injury after an accident on the football field three years ago left him a quadriplegic at the age of 23. He said his positive attitude and mindset helped him to live life to the full and keep on achieving, despite his day to day challenges.
Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Gippsland PHN, Brooke Carlesso, presented on the bigger picture, touching on the activities being undertaken by the Place-Based Suicide Prevention trial in Bass Coast. She also gave examples of community campaigns focused on suicide prevention.
Michelle Debenham from Wellways talked of the four steps to suicide prevention: Recognise the warning signs; Ask about suicide and listen without judgement; Encourage help seeking and Check in afterwards. She encouraged everyone to “step up and become involved in helping to prevent suicide in the community”.
A robust and honest discussion ensued where audience members spoke about their ideas for working together to build a community that helps prevent suicide. Many of the opinions expressed aligned with the current and proposed suicide prevention activities being rolled out across Bass Coast including a call-out for training opportunities in workplaces, schools, clinical settings, community groups and among carers.
Ms Proposch described the community forum as a resounding success which not only raised the profile of the Place-Based Suicide Prevention Trial project but also launched important and an ongoing community conversations about suicide prevention in Bass Coast.
Leading mental health advocate, Wayne Schwass, spoke about the value of social connection and emotional intelligence at the Bass Coast Suicide Prevention Forum.
Beau Vernon shared his story of living with spinal cord injury after an accident on the football field at the Bass Coast Suicide Prevention Forum.