Media releases

New support service for people who have attempted suicide in the Hunter

03 Oct 2016

There are nearly 2,400 suicide attempts in the Hunter region every year with people at significant risk of making a second attempt – or even taking their life – in the days, weeks and months following discharge from hospital.

On Tuesday, October 4, NSW Mental Health Commissioner, Mr John Feneley, and Beyond Blue CEO, Georgie Harman, will launch The Way Back Support Service (NSW), a service new to the Hunter region and funded by the Movember Foundation and Beyond Blue.

The Way Back Support Service will be delivered by a Newcastle consortium* led by Hunter Primary Care in partnership with Beyond Blue to provide support for those who have recently attempted to take their own life.

People who have attempted suicide are referred from the Calvary Mater Newcastle to The Way Back Support Service where a Support Coordinator is assigned to encourage their recovery.

The Coordinator offers the person non-clinical care, support and practical assistance to get them through this particularly difficult time. Co-ordinators are specially trained to link these people to health, community services and clinical care if needed.

“Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics preliminary data showed 3027 people took their own lives in 2015 leaving countless families, friends and colleagues devastated,” Ms Harman said. “If someone has attempted suicide, we know there is a big risk they will try again and the first three months are critical to their recovery.

“People discharged from hospital following an attempt or suicidal crisis are 200 times more likely to end their own life. Yet, unfortunately, up to 50 per cent refuse recommended treatment. With practical support people can make it through this difficult period with access to the right information, guidance and motivation to engage with follow-up treatment.”

A total of 2133 people were admitted to public hospitals in the Hunter region after making an attempt on their lives in 2013. Of these, 1937 lived in Newcastle.

Dr Kevin Sweeney, CEO of Hunter Primary Care said: “The Way Back Support Service is a very important step to improve our approach to preventing suicide and Hunter Primary Care is pleased to be able to deliver this to the Hunter community. Since the service commenced operating five months ago, more than 200 people have received support from The Way Back Support Service. The evaluation of this initiative will provide essential evidence to help inform and target suicide prevention activities in Australia.”

Charlotte Webb, Movember Foundation Country Director for Australia and New Zealand, said The Way Back Support Service is an example of what can be achieved when organisations work together to have a real impact on the amount of people taking their own lives.

“Thanks to funds raised by the Movember community, we’re able to invest in innovative projects such as this, which save lives by allowing easy access to help and advice people might not otherwise be able to afford,” Ms Webb said.

Family members, friends and carers play an important role supporting the recovery of a person who has attempted suicide. However, they are also at risk of developing mental health issues as a result. As part of The Way Back, they will be invited to join professionally-facilitated Guiding Their Way Back Support Groups. These groups were developed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, will be delivered by Relationships Australia, and will be funded by Beyond Blue, Greater Charitable Foundation and nib foundation.

Kate, a Support Coordinator for The Way Back Support Service in Newcastle, said:

“The big difference with The Way Back is it is not clinical.

“We get alongside people who have attempted suicide and help them connect to the supports they need.

“We do this by talking to them on the phone or meeting at a café to encourage them during their recovery.

“They are free to talk to us about anything without fear or judgement, and we are comfortable listening to their stories.”

*The Way Back Support Service Newcastle consortium is led by Hunter Primary Care and includes Calvary Mater Newcastle, Hunter New England Mental Health Services, Hunter Institute of Mental Health and Relationships Australia NSW.

The Way Back Support Service (NSW) Launch

Tuesday, October 4 from 10.30am to 11.30am,

Fort Scratchley Historic Site Function Centre,

Nobby’s Rd, Newcastle East.

Mental health professionals are available at the Beyond Blue Support Service via phone 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support for on-line chat (3PM-12AM AEST) or email responses (within 24 hours).

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