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Coffee and a chat could save a life
Coffee and a chat could save a life

After facilitating the Even Keel Bipolar Disorder Support Association in Rockingham for more than 20 years, news of suicide still hits Ingrid Bentsen hard.

The support group has welcomed many people through its doors at the June O’Connor Centre throughout its many years.

It meets on the second Friday of each month and is open for people with a mental illness, their family, friends and carers.

But, with numbers dwindling, especially men and people under 30, Ms Bentsen encouraged people with suicidal thoughts to seek help and speak out.

“I feel quite distressed when I hear about suicide,” she said.

“The group has been running for 20 years and we don’t get many people that come and attend.

“Yet, I still hear about suicides in the community. People could learn so much from a support group.

“If people talked about their experiences, especially those who have been suicidal themselves and faced really dark, dark times and gone through it, that encourages others to talk about what’s going on with them.

“It helps those people to reach out and get help.”

Ms Bentsen believes there is a change of culture and people are starting to open up about the once-taboo topic.

“People are beginning to talk candidly about the issue – but only behind closed doors,” she said.

“I think there is a change of culture now that people are talking about suicide – it’s something I strongly believe in.

“People need to take time to really listen to others and their problems, rather then trying to solve the problem for them.”

The spotlight on mental health has never been higher on the agendas of local, State and Federal governments.

Fifteen Headspace centres, offering support in areas ranging from health issues to drug and alcohol problems, and social and vocational support, are due to be rolled out across the country inside the next two years.

One of these mental health services is slated for a 2014 opening in Rockingham, with details still being finalised by relevant stakeholders.

Ms Bentsen feels the centre would complement services already available in Rockingham.

“We’re very fortunate in Rockingham. I’d say we’ve got the best mental health service in Western Australia, maybe even Australia,” she said.

“We’ve got a service that cares and has won so many awards.

“I’m very excited about the Headspace service, it’s a one-stop shop and there are fewer barriers.”

Ms Bentsen said she also offered a one-on-one, confidential service for people who were uncomfortable attending the group for the first time.

“All it takes is two minutes to pick up the phone and have a chat, and even meet for a coffee somewhere and talk through things,” she said.

“We’re all individuals and different things work for all of us.”

Meetings are free and everyone is welcome to attend.

The group meets from noon to 2pm at the June O’Connor Centre, Rockingham, on the second Friday of each month.

For more information call Ingrid on 0412 522 387 or Even Keel on 9388 9869, Monday and Friday.

If you or someone you know needs help or support contact:

• Lifeline, 13 11 14
• Crisis Care, 9223 1111, 1800 199 008
• The Samaritans, 9381 5555, 1800 198 313
• Kids Help Line, 1800 551 800