In demand suicide support service looking for funds

Helping hand: Share and Care support staff Jean Finnigan has been part of the Suicide Bereavement Support program since 2016. Photo: Eliza Wynn.
Helping hand: Share and Care support staff Jean Finnigan has been part of the Suicide Bereavement Support program since 2016. Photo: Eliza Wynn.

Coinciding with WA Mental Health week, Northam-based community services group Share and Care is calling on the government to support a one-of-its-kind suicide bereavement support program in the Wheatbelt.

Since launching in April 2016 as a pilot program, more than 5000 Suicide Bereavement Support (SBS) packs were supplied to locals who were grieving the death of someone who took their own lives.

Share and Care chief executive Carol Jones said it was inspired by a gap in the Wheatbelt community services sector.

Services vary from caring for children, general and financial counselling and referrals to other agencies.

"We are hoping that this will get picked up by the government and we will continue to push for it because we are the only provider in the Wheatbelt that when asked will go out within 24 hours and make sure we have knocked at your door to see how we can help," Mrs Jones said.

"The program is as much proactive as it is reactive.

"As much as we will react to the death and assist the family and friends, we will partner with other agencies who have education programs that they spread around the Wheatbelt.

"Because we are there in such a short time we are giving support to people who might not have otherwise had it.

"Whilst we are on the ground we are giving information to everyone involved."

The SBS program sees an average of five face-to-face meetings a month and an average of 25 phone calls a month.

Mrs Jones said suicide rates in the Wheatbelt were concerning.

"Before we started the SBS program, a particular Wheatbelt town had a number of contagion suicides - the original death and then three or four others," she said.

"Since the program has been in operation there have been no contagion suicide events, which means it is doing its job.

"What's interesting is that research shows it is around 10 years after an death that a subsequent one will occur.

"We don't have a time limit for the support on this service regardless of our funding.

"If you need assistance 10 years down the track we will make sure we are here.

"Share and Care will look after those people and get them to a place where they can have further help."

The Suicide Bereavement Support program has supported people from more than 18 towns around the region.

Mrs Jones said during her time managing Share and Care, she had seen a rise in mental health issues across the board.

"We are here to provide to whatever clients' needs are in hopes that we can help them towards wellness," she said.

"Share and Care have mental health support programs which people can access through their doctor or the Wheatbelt Mental Health team."

Suicide Bereavement Support staff can be contacted 24/7 on 0474 076 849.

If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au.