It was in 2004 when seven friends lost someone dear to suicide and together they vowed to do more towards suicide prevention in Mackay.
That day saw the beginning of the Grapevine Group, which 15 years later continues the good fight against suicide.
In this time, Grapevine Group has trained 5000 people in suicide prevention reaching the milestone in April this year. They also developed a website listing all relevant local services, devised the Help-a-Mate campaign which has distributed close to 200,000 Help-a-Mate cards listing the region’s suicide prevention resources and established 34 Help-a-Mate Hub locations to distribute the life-saving cards.
The Help-a-Mate Hubs have been well supported and locations include; Auto Corner, Porters, 3 Mackay Regional Council Libraries, Caneland Central, Mount Pleasant Centre, Fergus Builders, MAD Cow Coffee, The Daily Mercury and Mackay Cutters to name just a few.
Grapevine Group President, Laurence Manning, said he felt a great sense of pride that the volunteer organisation had achieved so much and endured the test of time.
“The moment that means the most for me was when the group suicide prevention trained our 5000th person in the Mackay region,” Mr Manning said.
Originally formed to raise awareness on the warning signs and promote local suicide prevention resources, Grapevine Group then focused their fund-raising efforts to train local high school teachers and police.
Founding member Debbie Knight coined the name for the organisation because of her perception that the community were hearing of tragedies along the “gossip grapevine” and therefore not the resources available to them. They approached local media to give more attention to suicide prevention.
Ms Knight is equally proud of the Group’s achievements as it continues to gather momentum with campaigns like the 2018 “Be Suicide Alert This Christmas” which she says was seen on social media over 220,000 times.
“We had videos from 34 community leaders calling on our community to keep an eye on colleagues, friends and family at the time of year when the risk of suicide is higher,” Ms Knight said.
The videos from community leaders were viewed over 60,000 times and were provided from representatives of the three levels of government, as well as higher risk groups such as LGBTI; veterans; and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders.
Suicide Prevention Australia, the nation’s peak body, lauded Grapevine’s ground-breaking efforts to highlight the issue of suicide at Christmas and the annual campaign grows yearly.
Grapevine Group’s other list of achievements is a CQUniversity partnership and $20,000 funding of a research project that collected evidence on the effectiveness of safeTALK suicide prevention training. It also continues its support of safeTALK in the schools.
Grapevine Group was also recognised again this year winning the Australia Day Award for the Community Group category and in 2017 Debbie Knight was honoured with one of five national individual Suicide Prevention Australia LiFE awards for excellence in suicide prevention.
Grapevine Group presents safeTALK and ASIST training for free to the Mackay region.
safeTALK training can be presented to groups of 10 or more in private sessions at their location. Sessions for the public are also available. The three-hour training has been implemented by businesses, schools, government, community groups, media and sports organisations and teaches participants how to identify someone at risk of suicide, talk to those experiencing suicidal thoughts and the knowledge to help guide them to resources.
The next public safeTALK session will be at Dudley Denny City Library 9am to 12pm on September 19 followed by another on October 8.