NSW suicide prevention team

Sharon, Claire and Cassandra talk about their experiences of supporting the community to prevent and better respond to suicide.
Sharon, Claire & Cassandra

Sharon: I’m the Suicide Prevention Worker at the Orange site in NSW. I’ve been with Neami for nearly a year. My background was working over ten years in mental health.

Claire: I’m the Regional Manager for Neami for Western NSW. So my role is as the Manager for the Suicide Prevention Program, as well as other things. I’ve been with Neami for two and a half years.

Cassandra: I’m the Suicide Prevention Worker in Dubbo, NSW. I’ve been with Neami for nearly four and a half years, originally with the Rehabilitation and Recovery Centre, and now as a Suicide Prevention Worker.

Claire: The Suicide Prevention Service in Western New South Wales is funded by the Western NSW Primary Health Network (Western NSW PHN) and works within the LifeSpan model that the Black Dog Institute has developed. We’re providing psychosocial support after a suicide attempt, and also psychosocial support for people who are at risk of suicide or have thought about it. We’re using the Optimal Health Program (OHP) to do that.

We’re also capacity building by delivering mental health first aid to some of our participants and other people. And we’ve been working with Roses in the Ocean to develop a lived experience consultative network for the PHN.

Sharon: I cover Orange and Bathurst. I’m also doing groups out at Parkes. And we’re just about to start some up over in Cowra.

Cassandra: I’ve delivered the Optimal Health Program to people who are finding autonomy for the first time in their lives and understanding collaboration.

Sharon: There isn’t a typical day as a Suicide Prevention worker - every day is different because I travel to different communities. We try and take it to the community so they’re not in that sort of clinical setting. There’s also a lot of networking with people in the community to get the word out that we’re running this program.

Cassandra: One of the consumers I work with said to me: “I’ve done lots of programs in my life and doing the OHP program was nothing like I’ve ever done before. One thing that I can take away from this program is that I never knew about positive stress and negative stress”. I love how the OHP program is a framework for staff to work with and then add their own signature and style. It makes it authentic to the trainer when delivering it to the consumer.

Sharon: I’ve had some people say “We’ve never actually had the opportunity to be asked these questions about ourselves.” It’s always been about medication, ticking the boxes, being discharged. But we’re getting back down to what they hold valuable in their lives.

Claire: It’s like we’re all in it together. The OHP gives us a framework, and we learn from consumers and they learn from us. Everybody’s equal. It’s just about sharing.

Sharon: We’re supporting people who’ve tried to take their own lives. We listen to their stories and, as we go through the OHP, we put strategies and health plans into place with them.

Claire: To do this work, the main qualities needed for a suicide prevention worker are compassion and the ability to sit with someone. To sit with their distress even when they’re not able to do something about it. And to be strength-based; to offer hope and belief that people have the expertise within themselves to get through this.

Cassandra: Definitely compassion. I think being authentic and being able to offer hope are the qualities you need to have.

Sharon: For me it helps to have great listening skills. Empathy; everyone’s a human being and everyone deserves to be supported throughout their lives. It’s not us telling them what they need to do. It’s them thinking about what they need to do.

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