In the days and weeks following a suicide attempt, lingering fragility and vulnerability often manifest into a significantly heightened risk of future suicidal behaviour, which is when aftercare support following a suicide attempt is vital. The NSW Government has funded three aftercare services as part of the 2020-24 Suicide Prevention Fund, adding to the existing The Way Back Support Service included in the
Aftercare initiative as part of Towards Zero Suicides.
Significantly, additional resources are available for people of diverse genders and sexualities who’ve had a recent attempt or are in crisis – in fact, for the first time, these at-risk adults can access a dedicated suicide prevention program run by community organisation ACON.
The program provides tailored telehealth care, state-wide, for an average of three to six months, with a goal of fast-tracking recovery and transitioning to longer-term care if required. Face-to-face support can also be provided from ACON’s offices in Sydney and Newcastle.
It responds flexibly and effectively to the community’s unique mental health needs while also providing connections with social, financial, legal, housing and community services to address the possible triggers of suicidal behaviour.People of diverse gender and sexuality experience higher levels of psychological distress, harmful alcohol and drug use, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than the general population. This risk is further increased for those of Aboriginal descent or who are culturally and linguistically diverse.
Genevieve Whitlam, ACON Associate Director, Clinical and Client Services, says the service is about providing hope for recovery and for a better future.
“We think it’s really important that our services aren’t just aftercare, that it’s suicide prevention as well, because we find that some community members won’t seek support from crisis services or go to hospital because they don’t feel safe.“So we offer care coordination and counselling support with allied health professionals, but there’s also peer-support which is quite new to our service offering. Our peer workers are people who have experienced a mental health crisis or suicidal crisis themselves.
“Clients can access any of these services together, or just one aspect alone, depending on their individual need. It’s a person-centred care approach.”
While self-referral is the most common,
also promotes through primary care, local health districts, emergency departments, mental health services and directly to the public.
“We haven’t had to do a lot of promotion, and we are full. It’s definitely filling a need,” Genevieve adds. “We find having that mix of a specialist services with mainstream services is really important, so people have choice.”
To access ACON’s Suicide Prevention and Aftercare Service, service providers or community members can refer in to the service by completing the Intake Form - ACON (aconhealth.org.au) or calling 9206 2000 and asking to speak to the Intake Officer.
People living in regional NSW are also being well supported by community-based Aftercare services funded by the NSW Government. Isolation, grief, sickness, financial hardship and relationship stress are common triggers in rural areas that can be addressed, engendering a stronger sense of resilience and reducing stigma and shame.
In the Illawarra Shoalhaven and Southern NSW,
Grand Pacific Health received a grant from the 2020-24 Suicide Prevention Fund to support its Next Steps Program using both virtual and face-to-face outreach. Towards Zero Suicide Safe Haven and SPOT teams in these regions are providing a referral pathway to Next Steps. There’s also a strong focus on referrals to other services that can continue to work with the person after Next Steps.
In New England and North West NSW, HealthWISE is supporting Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes, Gunnedah, Inverell, Moree and Narrabri, with outreach stretching as far as Barraba, Bingara, Quirindi, Warialda and Walcha. The service takes a holistic approach to the complex issue, providing clinical services, clinical care coordination, individual psycho-social support and community awareness and education. People affected by suicide are also supported by this service.