A Let's Talk forum calls for a united community approach to youth suicide

Keeping it simple and working together were the main messages to come from a youth services forum in Warrnambool on Wednesday.

The event, hosted by MacKillop Family Services, involved 60 of the city’s youth-focused groups including schools, parents, organisations, police, council and community services.

Lets Talk: Lifeline's Bess Slater and MacKillop Family Services' Tania Ferris and Peta Caldwell are hoping a united approach will simplify community conversations about suicide. Picture: Rebecca Riddle.

Lets Talk: Lifeline's Bess Slater and MacKillop Family Services' Tania Ferris and Peta Caldwell are hoping a united approach will simplify community conversations about suicide. Picture: Rebecca Riddle.

MacKillop Family Services representative Tania Ferris said attendance numbers showed the need for regular networking events of its kind.

“We are ecstatic with today’s turnout,” she said. “It shows the community are invested in a vicarious way. Now it’s about working together to achieve this.”

Mrs Ferris said her role with foster carers included support and teaching around youth mental health.

“We need to ensure our carers have support services and know where to get help,” she said. “We have to have strategies in place for when they hear a cry for help.”

Lifeline’s Bess Slater, spoke of her engagement with Fight for Your Life, a community suicide prevention strategy.

“The aim of the project is to achieve the vision of reducing suicide in the great south coast by 50 per cent by 2023,” she said “We can’t do it on our own. It’s about services working together.”

Ms Slater said current systems offering suicide support were disconnected.

“We do not have an integrated system for support for anybody affected by suicide,” she said. “Support and ongoing care is limited and random, dependent on a range of factors including existing connections to services and an individuals’s capacity and level of comfort to seek help.”

Ms Slater said community discussion would need to remain a priority. “We need to keep having conversations about what services are out there and how to get help,” she said. “We want to keep the message simple so the whole community know where to go.” Clinical consultant at St John of God Mark Powell echoed the need for a community approach. “As we all know suicide cannot be stopped by unilateral approaches, it relies on community and individuals as well as the service system responding in a co-ordinated and helpful way.”

 Anyone who needs help can call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyondblue on 1300 224 636