two hands are holding someone's hand

From its initial conception, incorporating the voices and perspectives of Australians with lived experience of suicide has been a core element of Towards Zero Suicides and its suite of initiatives.

The NSW Health investment, which provides leading best practice crisis care and support, enhances local community resilience and improves systems and practices to reduce the suicide rate in NSW, has sought to utilise innovative and even more inclusive new approaches to deliver on its goals.

And that’s why NSW Health took the decision to partner with Roses in the Ocean, one of Australia’s leading lived experience of suicide organisations.

The Brisbane-based organisation is dedicated to empowering those with a lived experience to find their voice, and to empowering individuals to bring their insights and wisdom to suicide prevention.

The early impacts of the partnership are especially heartening for Roses in the Ocean founder Bronwen Edwards, who established the organisation 12 years ago following the tragic death by suicide of her own brother.

“In the past, most suicide prevention services and approaches have been solely clinical and haven’t always sought to understand the needs of people with a lived experience, or of people in distress,” Edwards says.

“A lot of assumptions get made… so it's a massive shift to actually, stop and say ‘OK, things aren't working, we’d better listen to the people who actually need these services - they need to be front and centre in the design and then we need to implement that’."

To date, the perspective and expertise of Roses in the Ocean has been instrumental in co-designing and collaborating on four key Toward Zero Suicides initiatives, with Edwards especially buoyed by the establishment and incorporation of a specialised lived experience peer workforce into various settings and care models.

“For example, many people in crisis have long been asking to be supported by a peer who has been in crisis themselves before,” explains Edwards.

“Similarly, people who are bereaved, and getting support through the post suicide support service want to have a peer who's been bereaved through suicide. So the emergence of the specialty suicide prevention peer workforce, the training we've developed specifically for that contextualised situation and all of the external peer mentoring and professional development is incredibly exciting.

Another initiative with which Roses in the Ocean has been involved is Safe Haven which offers a free, walk-in community-based crisis support service option. The availability of this new alternative, for many people, means they no longer need to attend an emergency department for help - a setting that can be harmful and traumatising for some people in such vulnerable moments.

Sixteen Safe Havens are already established across NSW, providing a calm, and non-clinical service for people experiencing distress or suicidal thoughts. They are staffed by peer-support workers working in collaboration with other mental health professionals.

“I honestly believe that the introduction of non-clinical safe spaces that are peer-led, community-owned and staffed with a suicide prevention peer workforce is going to be the massive game changer in saving lives,” Edwards says.

“I can genuinely, hand-on-heart say, I think we're at the cusp of offering services with appropriate staff that will make a significant difference to the suicide rate.”

Visit the Roses in the Ocean website to learn more.

Current as at: Wednesday 27 April 2022
Contact page owner: Mental Health