Distressed? Help is at hand
News ways to help being explored by the State Government

Amobile phone app for recording daily moods that alerts a trusted friend when you are feeling low, and a mental health wellbeing van for visiting schools, are among the suicide prevention projects being worked on around the State as part of 54 government-led community action plans.

These locally bred, designed, directed and funded plans are a core part of a sustainable strategy to address WA's unacceptably high suicide rate of more than 200 deaths per year, with the State Government having committed $13 million. Their development is being overseen by the non-government organisation Centrecare, with its One Life suicide prevention strategy staff having taken on the responsibility for the day-to-day work of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention.

"This strategy primarily targets those within our community who have not necessarily sought assistance or help - everyday people," Centrecare's general manager, Catherine Spini, said.

"We want all West Australians to know that it is OK to put up your hand and say 'I am struggling' and then know exactly where to get help.

"The strategy's aims are to reduce stigma and promote conversation around suicide prevention and we are finding people do want to talk about suicide now. On a Tuesday night in a small country town it is not uncommon to draw a crowd of 30 to 50 people to a discussion around suicide and mental wellbeing. And 60 per cent of them are male - this has previously been unheard of."

Only a year ago, WA had only nine suicide prevention community action plans, with the figure then blowing out to 54 after an unpredicted soar in interest across the State in recent months.

"There are so many groups that want to come on board," Ms Spini said. Each plan is being led by a "passionate local", with those stepping forward to put their hand up to do the job of community co-ordinator ranging from psychologists, social workers and nurses, through to former police officers and vets. They then drum up support in their neighbourhood in a variety of ways, ranging from a town meeting, cold calling community agencies or the production of a DVD for distribution to a series of casual outback talks held in the shade of a tree.

More than 130 business and community groups have already pledged support ranging from ongoing funding through to a commitment to educate all staff on the protection of mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. These range from bigger establishments such as the WA Police and Department of Defence through to the City of Rockingham and smaller groups such as Safety Bay Senior High School.

Of WA's 54 community action plans, 14 are now undertaking suicide prevention activities within their local community following an extensive consultation and planning stage, including those established by Derby, Albany, Armadale, Esperance, the South West and the Wheatbelt. Overall, nine are specifically for the indigenous population, 13 have a strong indigenous focus, seven are specifically for youth and eight specifically for males.

Other WA community groups who have recently registered their interest in starting work on developing their own community action plan include veterans, GPs and multicultural groups.

The West Australian

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