By Laurence Manning
President, Grapevine Group Mackay

Our community is speaking more freely about suicide prevention and mental health. And if there is an achievement to be grateful for in 2016, it is this one.

Certainly, there is still a lot of work to be done – and this hasn’t happened overnight, but through the course of the past several years. Hopefully, though, we are starting to see some headway being made in breaking down the stigmas and taboos around such an important issue for our region.

Amid the challenges and adversity brought to bear on parts of our community this year, Grapevine Group has continued to advance the region’s suicide prevention movement with awareness, prevention training and research.

Our SafeTalk Program has continued to empower the people of our region with tools to help them identify, and provide assistance to, those at risk. We reached a milestone in October with more than 3000 people being put through the program; that’s 3000 people who are now better equipped and trained to help us reduce the rate of suicide in our community.

We have also seen the SafeTALK program delivered to staff and students at a  Mackay school and to teaching and other staff at a number of other schools and training is planned for several schools throughout the region in 2017.

2016 saw the training of more facilitators and as such our vital partnerships with organisations such as LifeLine, Run For MI Life and the Mackay Regional Suicide Prevention Network were further strengthened. This shows, once again, this is an issue which needs a collaborative and all-of-community effort.

We have embarked on a partnership with the local campus of Central Queensland University to deliver SafeTALK to their faculty and students, and in 2017 we plan to ensure that effective suicide prevention training is delivered to as many of the student group who may take up the offer, given this is conventionally an over-represented group in statistical data on suicide.

As part of the Mackay Cutters’ #Change the Game campaign the Grapevine Group is supporting the Mackay Regional Suicide Prevention Network in delivering their suicide prevention training program for the players, coaches, management and staff of the Cutters and throughout the local rugby league competition.

What is most encouraging is the seismic shift underway in awareness and prevention. Throughout the year we have seen a stronger commitment from the Federal Government in relation to suicide prevention and mental health and involvement with the Primary Health Network.

Our community has seen the emergence of a strong and prolific suicide prevention movement in the past couple of years and 2016 has seen that strengthen even further. With Grapevine Group focusing on awareness, research and education, we are shoring up the sustainability of this important movement.

Finally, to the Mackay community, our partners, our media supporters, trainers and facilitators, committee members and everyone who took time out to participate in the SafeTALK program – we say thank you!

Now, here’s to a safe and happy 2017.