FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE.

That’s how many people have taken the time out of their busy lives to complete suicide training throughout the Mackay region.

Facilitated by Grapevine Group, the life-saving training helps participants identify people who are at risk and empowers them with the tools to help those people in the short term.

Grapevine president Laurence Manning said the milestone could only have been reached with the support and dedication of people throughout the community and the group’s volunteers.

Mr Manning said community leaders and personalities – especially those involved in the 2018 Be Suicide Alert This Christmas campaign – local media houses, business, community organisations, safeTALK Ambassadors who volunteered to help spread the word about the program, sporting bodies and many individuals all assisted make the milestone a reality.

He said all had played a significant part in the rollout of the safeTALK program in the region since 2009.
Mr Manning also paid tribute to Jo-Anne Shanks and the Run for MI Life organisation, who had helped raise much-needed funds for the programs and promote greater awareness of mental health and suicide prevention.
“These are 5000 people in our region who have given up three hours of their time to do something real about the issue of suicide,” Mr Manning said.

“It means they are able to get someone the care and support they need as well as be able to identify the warning signs of suicide people often display.”

Mr Manning said many cases occurred when someone was experiencing a short-term problem and once overcome, they can go on to live productive lives.

“This has also gone a long way toward de-stigmatising mental health and suicide; we can bring it into the mainstream and talk about it as we do other serious illnesses.

“Unfortunately suicide is a bit like all serious illnesses or health issues in that not all loss of life can be prevented. But research has found that a large number can be prevented and lives saved.”

Mr Manning said while the positive effects at an individual level were one gain, milestones such as this also highlighted the need for people to consider careers in the field.

“We need to encourage our talented young people to take up careers in mental health,” he said.

“Certainly, through intervention, but also in research so we can find better treatments and solutions to the problems associated with mental health. We need to see the same gains in the mental health fields as we have in other major illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, for example.”

Adding to the momentum of the Sign up for safeTALK campaign is Grapevine’s local contribution to the world-wide Semicolon campaign.

Campaign founder and vice president Debbie Knight said April was World Semicolon Month and it was a time for people to take time out – and some pause for thought – about their own mental wellness and general wellbeing.

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. Grapevine is promoting the message “My story keeps going” to the community and our youth.

“If people just stop for a moment, realise they can break the cycle just by a taking a pause, then it can make a huge difference.”
During April Grapevine Group is encouraging the community to like, share and engage with the messages and moments of pause being advocated for via their wide-reaching Facebook page.
“People can follow us on Facebook and we will be sharing messages of support and encouraging others to do that same.”

The community can sign up for free safeTALK training by attending a public session or by hosting private training. Grapevine has their 2019 public safeTALK dates available at www.grapevinegroup.org.au where people 15 and over can book and read more information. They will also be holding a Parent and Teen safeTALK session on Tuesday May 14 from 6 to 9pm.