Local SPN gathers experts to help reduce the stigma of reaching out

This post discusses suicide. If you or someone you know would like to talk to someone about mental health, you can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (ages 5 to 25) or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636. If you are in crisis, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

The Naracoorte & Districts Suicide Prevention Network held the event Mind Your Health on Wednesday October 10 at the Town Hall, with many guest speakers addressing the public on how they can seek help if they believe they’re at risk.

Speakers included Rob O’Sullivan, who lost his father to suicide, and also made attempts on his own life. He is now a Suicide Prevention Network volunteer based in Blackwood, and has been part of the SPN for the past two years.

“We’re all affected by suicide, whether directly or indirectly – it has a ripple effect,” Rob explained.

The goal for Rob and the SPN is to have 68 chapters across the state – there is currently 34, and so they’re halfway there.

Volunteers like Rob have received professional training, but they’re still first and foremost members of the community who want to make a difference in people’s lives.

“We want to reach out to people who believe that the world is better off without them,” said Rob.

“The universal message of all volunteers is that it’s okay to talk about suicide, and to try keep people here. The (suicide) statistics are on the rise, and it’s concerning.”

Jana Norman was another guest speaker, who works on behalf of Nature and Wellbeing Australia. Jana’s presentation was ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing in Nature’, which used science to connect outdoor activity to improved mental health. Being in nature can do things such as lower a person’s cortisol and improve serotonin.  

The Five Ways to Wellbeing in Nature also included a Naracoorte Nature Park walk on Thursday morning, which set off from the Swimming Lake. 

The last speaker was Lynne O’Sullivan, who was previously the Principal Project Officer – Suicide Prevention in the office of the Chief Psychiatrist of SA Health. Lynne was there to speak about the state plan for mental health, and the simple things that everyone can do to prevent suicide in the community.

Gayle-Anne Parkin is the media representative for The Naracoorte & Districts Suicide Prevention Network. She works closely with Kathy Galbraith, the Chair. 

“We want to get the message out to the community,” Gayle-Anne said about the decision to hold a public event in the Town Hall.

“Awareness in the community helps to break down stigma. It’s not an easy subject, but we encourage people to come to us. Especially on Mental Health Week.”

Erika Vickery served as an emcee for the night. As well as representing the council, Erika was there as the Chair of the Naracoorte Lucindale Community Care Network, and she is involved with the Naracoorte & Districts SPN.

“The wellbeing of the community is very important to me. I’ve been involved (in the SPN) from the start, as I’m aware that the community has experienced trauma.”

Erika reached out to Lynne first, taking Lynne by surprise as she had originally planned to call the mayor. Lynne was instrumental in creating the Suicide Prevention Network in South Australia, but she also credits “some absolute stars” for keeping it going and growing.

“Community members are behind it, and it’s gone extremely well,” Lynne said.

On Thursday October 11 select cafes in Naracoorte also gave out free coffees, to encourage people to sit down and have a chat, and check in with each other.