Community rallies to show their support

In the aftermath of recent suicides, Headspace, the national youth mental health initiative, will be giving youth from the Kiama region dealing with their distress priority access to a counselor.

Nick Guggisberg, Kiama Council’s Community Development Manager, and its representative on the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative group, welcomes the increased focus on ways of supporting mental health locally.

“Mental health is an issue for our whole country, and from my perspective it needs more attention and resources.”

While stressing Council isn’t a mental health provider, he says it is keen to continue to play a community development role.

“Council’s longstanding role has been to help support people getting access to services, and to help people live in an environment that is supportive for positive mental health.

“A whole lot of different groups are emerging with different responses. As a Council we don’t want to get in their way of growing organically, and we will support them where we can.”

Maggie Dent, Belinda Krull and Rachael Peedom selling masks at the Farmers’ Market to raise funds

As an example of the practical ways that people are looking to help, local parents Rachael Peedom, Belinda Krull and Dave Griffin have formed Makuta, to raise funds for suicide prevention initiatives for school age youth.

Their first fundraising venture is selling volunteer made reusable facemarks online and at the Kiama Farmers’ Market. Donations of material and hat elastic gratefully will be accepted by Makuta.

Reduce Reuse Recycle Kiama quickly got behind the initiative, organising a sewing bee on 8-9 August. Book in here:

Locally based author and educator, Maggie Dent, who has a special interest in adolescence and resilience, is keen to lend her experience and support, including being at the first stall to talk with people.

The number of community initiatives continue to grow, with many still in their infancy so it is premature to give details now.

Through Mr Guggisberg’s long involvement with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, he warns the issues are systemic and multilayered, and that there is no one quick fix.

The Collaborative bases its work on nine evidence-based community interventions, and a lifespan model benefitting from the perspective of people with lived experience.

“It is working with other agencies to change the service system.

“It is a story of hope, positivity and proactivity, but there is still much to be realised.”

A large proportion of Council’s focus on mental health is aimed at local youth.

“Young people have been identifying mental health as a priority for them for a long time,” he says.

“Our Youth Service is there to support people with their emotional and social development.

“Hundreds of young people access the service every week, either through targeted programs to meet their emotional, social and other developmental needs, drop-in sessions or individual support.”

The Youth Service is offering pop-up drop-in sessions in Gerringong throughout August.

“We are keen to give young people a welcoming space where they can come together at this time and access support if they need it,” says Mr Guggisberg.

For the broader community, he has gathered together a range of resources people can turn to, and put them on Council’s website.

Mr Guggisberg highly recommends people look into doing a program called QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer).

“It is about recognising when someone is needing a bit of support and then knowing how to speak about it.”

The Principal of Kiama High, Catherine Glover, says they are maintaining a strong focus on student well being, with a particular emphasis on building resilience.

Along with their regular personal development programs, they are offering Preventure (a personality-based intervention), have had extra support from the Police Youth Workers and are collaborating on initiatives with Headspace.

“We are always prepared to work with our Parent & Community group to find effective ways to meet identified needs,” she says.

Councillor Matt Brown has lodged a motion for the August Council Meeting calling for the community to suggest the terms of reference, format and composition of a Suicide Prevention – Stronger Community Committee, comprising community members and councillors.

If this topic has raised issues for you, we urge you to contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Lifeline text service   0477 13 11 14 (6pm-midnight)
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Headspace 1800 650 890

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