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Mindful Margaret River free forum for residents affected by suicide and self-harm

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Edith Cowan University lecturer and researcher Dr Colleen Carlon.
Camera IconEdith Cowan University lecturer and researcher Dr Colleen Carlon. Credit: Supplied

A major forum for residents, families and health professionals affected by suicide will be held at the Margaret River Heart on November 18.

The event, co-ordinated by local groups under the auspices of Edith Cowan University, will commemorate the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day with the aim of “a community conversation about the experience of being bereaved by suicide”.

The forum follows a number of high profile suicides across the Capes region and concern about a worsening mental health outlook particularly among younger residents.

ECU lecturer and researcher Dr Colleen Carlon will lead the speakers who also include Jacquie Tarrant from St John of God social outreach and Jon Eddy from Roses in the Ocean.

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All three speakers have lived experience of bereavement by suicide as well as research in the mental health field.

“Together we will explore how grief, trauma, stigma and taboo intersect in the experience of suicide loss,” Dr Carlon said.

“We hope to establish understandings and model language which enables people, both the bereaved and their supporters, to counter suicide stigma and taboo in their social interactions.”

The forum is open to anyone touched by suicide as well as professional workers, with the event offering training and a panel discussion.

Mindful Margaret River officer Erin Statz said the forum came at the not-for-profit local group’s request in the hope of offering a chance for residents to share their experiences and have open conversations around an often taboo topic.

“Grief for those bereaved by suicide is complex, and stigma is one of the primary barriers to people either accessing or receiving timely, appropriate support,” Ms Statz said.

“There is also a separate breakout session open to anyone supporting children or young people bereaved by suicide that will be run by StandBy support after suicide.”

Dr Carlton said the forum also sought to overcome the stigma around suicide and self-harm, particularly that experienced by affected families and friends and which silenced the conversation around mental health.

The researcher said stigma made it difficult for people to seek help and for others to know what support to provide.

“People bereaved by suicide often experienced a higher risk of prolonged grief where they may become preoccupied with the loss, or suffer poor health outcomes such as stress, depression, anxiety or physical health difficulties,” she said.

“(Stigma) is the main barrier to people reaching out for and receiving support from friends and family.”

Dr Carlon hoped the forum would strengthen people’s understanding of their own suicide grief experience, and increase people’s capacity to provide confident and effective support to those who need it.

She noted suicide had a “disproportionate impact” on regional and remote communities “and the knowledge that 60 people can be adversely impacted by a single suicide highlights the need for better understanding and community confidence in responding to the support needs of people bereaved by suicide,” she said

“People in regional areas may not be able to access formal support services as easily as those in the city.”

The free event will close with a question and answer session.

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