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16 September 2020
By Dylan De Jong
Mental health education and awareness will be key to a newly formed Edenhope-based group’s effort to grapple with a growing number of suicides.
Community leaders and residents will help form mental health support group ‘LifeForce Edenhope’ – a branch of an Australia-wide suicide prevention network.
Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital social worker and program co-ordinator Robyn Lyons is working with a community-based steering committee to focus on suicide education and teaching basic engagement and intervention skills.
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Ms Lyons said the group would also serve as an access point for people seeking support.
“Edenhope is an area that has been identified as a high risk for suicide,” she said.
“What we’re aiming to do is let people know there are places to go if you need help.
“Our ultimate goal is to have people who can answer phones as part of a referral process, similar to an outreach program.”
Ms Lyons said a key objective of LifeForce was to reduce stigmas that existed around mental health and suicide in rural communities.
“The community is pivotal in breaking down that stigma around suicide and mental health,” she said.
“We want to upskill the community, be aware of the stigmas and let people know they can talk to their mates about it.
“There are services in every town, even though some communities out in the Wimmera are really small, people need to know there are resources available.”
In regional and rural Victoria, the suicide rate is 40 percent higher than in metropolitan areas.
That rate, especially outside of the cities, is climbing, despite national mental-health reforms and state-level framework to improve mental- health outcomes.
Suicide rates for males and females differ considerably, with males consistently comprising about three-quarters of suicide deaths.
Of a reported 3046 suicide deaths, 2320 were male and 726 female.
Ms Lyons said improving men’s mental health would be another key objective for the group.
She said from her experience in social work, men were more likely to bottle up their feelings.
“There’s a male population that might have the mindset of ‘we don’t talk about our problems’, or the farmer that just ‘gets on with life’ and if they’re having problems, they don’t talk about it,” she said.
“Young fathers and other younger demographic are another key focus.”
Ms Lyons said she was keen to provide a greater level of education around the appropriate language to use when talking about mental health.
“For people who have lost a family member through suicide, we will aim to teach others how to speak to that in a respectful way, so they are not triggering people or using terminology that is really offensive,” she said.
Ms Lyons said part of that education was to teach people how to identify when someone was struggling with their mental health.
“Early intervention is vital, just talking to each other and paying attention to the signs,” she said.
“If someone is withdrawing, we can try to investigate and find out what’s going on – if someone’s behaviour changes, you can look for critical points in their life. Is there something that’s causing them distress?
“A lot of the time you don’t even know, because people are so secretive about how they’re feeling.”
The group plans to run youth programs out of newly redeveloped Edenhope and District Community Centre.
Ms Lyons said the programs would aim to ensure youth were aware of how to access mental health services across Edenhope and district.
“We need youth driven programs in Edenhope – there’s not a lot for youth to do in the community,” she said.
“We hope we can find a way to connect with each other in ways that are non-judgemental and letting young people know there’s people they can trust if they need to talk to somebody.”
Ms Lyons said additional mental health and suicide prevention resources across Edenhope would be crucial while Victoria emerged from second-wave COVID-19 restrictions.
“The impacts of what’s happening now with coronavirus is going to be seen for many years to come,” she said.
“The government support initiatives have been really helpful, but once they start to drop off, we will start to see people struggle in their financial situation and ability to support themselves.”
• If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, MensLine on 1300 789 978, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 651 251. In an emergency, call triple zero.
The entire September 16, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!