A picture of a small fern laid out on soil

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a set of unique pressures most of us were entirely unprepared for, not least the impacts on our mental health and wellbeing.

To help alleviate this, the NSW Government has invested in a Mental Health Recovery Package. One component involves a state-wide training initiative to build a support network around young people through suicide prevention training. LivingWorks Education Australia is leading this training.

LivingWorks is a world-leading organisation in suicide intervention training, offering a variety of courses for community members since 1983.

The initiative's key target group is young people by providing training to those who support them such as high school teachers, school support staff, school wellbeing staff, parents, carers and student peer leaders in years 10-12. Other eligible groups include youth sporting communities, first responders, Aboriginal community leaders, community club members, small business owners and managers, TAFE staff and students.

Chris Pidd is a NSW Training Hub Lead with LivingWorks and has watched the expanding scope of the Mental Health Recovery Package made possible by the NSW Government investment.

"It would be normal previously to do maybe 20 workshops a year, but by the end of this year I will have delivered 60 workshops under this program."

One of these workshops is Safe Talk, where participants undertake suicide alertness training and gain intervention skills.

"We help people understand how to talk with a person they're concerned about, how to ask about suicide, listen to their story and then connect then with a suicide first aid resource.," Chris says.

 "Participants are shown a range of videos with examples of good intervention practice. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you notice and did you understand the steps as they unfolded? This way, not only do participants get to practice it themselves, but they get to see it playing out through the videos."

Workshop participant feedback shows the training is on track, as Chris explains:

 "People love the training because even though we show examples, we don't have scripts. We teach a mode of operation that doesn't include telling you how to do an intervention. Instead, we give you the skills to conduct an intervention in your own way according to the individual and the situation," Chris says.

LivingWorks safeTALK training allows participants to practice the skills they've learned in a role play setting, which provides some vital perspective for the person standing in as the one in crisis. Chris says even the people pretending to have thoughts of suicide mention an enormous sense of relief when asked about it.

"We talk about invitations in the workshop. We describe the non-direct ways people tell us they're having thoughts of suicide as being an invitation for help. They're not dressed the way they usually are. They're late for school or work and their marks are dropping. They could be distancing themselves."

"So if you get an invitation in the mail, there's an expectation that you'll RSVP. People can be seeking a response without saying a word."

Equipping members of the community with the perceptiveness to catch changes in a person's behaviour is a fundamental piece of any suicide intervention training, and Safe Talk is just one example of how LivingWorks is working within the Towards Zero Suicides initiative to do so.

What makes the Mental Health Recovery Package a unique arm of the broader initiative is the focus on young people. Participants are acquiring intervention skills during the very same period of life as the development of their general interpersonal skills. This training, like their schooling, is setting them up for life.

Chris notes that the rewards aren't limited to participants.

"It's a really beautiful program and I love delivering it. We all do. It's really amazing."

Current as at: Wednesday 22 March 2023
Contact page owner: Mental Health