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Conversations Matter to all communities across Australia

Thursday, November 20, 2014


To mark the one year anniversary of the world-first Conversations Matter resources, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health has called for an Australia-wide approach to support safe community discussion about suicide.

The online resource, Conversations Matter, provides practical information for individuals, families and communities to guide discussions about suicide. It can be used to support one-on-one conversations or to assist with planning for group or community-wide discussions. 

Supported by the NSW Mental Health Commission with initial funding from the NSW Government, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health is now calling on other states and territories, businesses and NGOs to ensure the resources can reach all communities.

Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, Jaelea Skehan, says that while the resources have only been actively piloted in NSW to date, that demand for the resources and professional development for those working with communities is increasing. 

“We know that people are more engaged with suicide prevention than they ever have been in the past and communities across Australia want support to talk about the issue in safe and helpful ways,” said Jaelea.

“We have the full support of the NSW Mental Health Commission to now approach other jurisdictions and reframe the program for national outcomes to ensure that we build on existing evidence-informed programs and reduce duplication of effort nationally.”

In its first year,with modest promotions the Conversations Matter website has had over 20,000 unique visitors with one out of every two visitors downloading the resources.

The program has also partnered with organisations in NSW to pilot professional development for health and non-health workers with access to a range of geographic and other communities. 

This has included training delivered to Rural Adversity Mental Health Workers across NSW, staff working with LGBTI communities through ACON, workshops for Family and Community Services workers and engagement of people working in suicide prevention. The first year also saw the execution of a partnership with the RUOK Day Foundation on messaging for the 2014 campaign. 

NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley has been a strong supporter of the program and its initial roll-out in NSW. 

“The Commission is proud to have partnered with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health to disseminate and implement this groundbreaking, practical guide to broaching the topic of suicide with loved ones,” he said. 

“The successful capacity building sessions that have run this year with groups, including those in rural communities and those that work with young people, are testament to the quality of the resources and how authentically it reaches people right across our community. 

“I look forward to continuing conversations and further success in our shared goal of preventing suicide.”

The Hunter Institute is currently finalising new Conversations Matter resources in partnership with Aboriginal organisations and is scoping a national approach for Conversations Matter resources to support young people and those working with young people.

The Conversations Matter resources were developed following a review of the evidence, consultation with stakeholders and communities and a comprehensive review process.  

“Many national organisations and individuals invested time and expertise in the development of the original resources.  It is now time to build on that foundation and ensure we develop further resources to meet the needs of individuals, families, workplaces and communities across Australia,” added Jaelea.

Hear from our Conversations Matter supporters in the suicide prevention sector:

Conversations Matter Speaker Video from HInstMH on Vimeo.

Conversations Matter first year milestones

Piloting with workforces

Facilitated training sessions across different communities, including:

  • Rural and remote mental health workers in Orange, NSW

  • ACON staff in Sydney, NSW

  • More than 250 NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) workers

  • Conversations Matter was showcased at the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Perth with a workshop for professionals and consumers facilitated by Director of the Hunter Institute Jaelea Skehan and staff. 

Promotion and awareness

  • In its first year, Conversations Matter has featured across several conferences and in the media. Much of this coincided with planned promotion opportunities such as World Suicide Prevention Day and R UOK?Day.
  • Rural issues were highlighted in the following ABC interviews:
  • Conversations Matter also received coverage and a significant increase in website views and resource downloads in reaction to local, national and international news and events including a Triple J Hack feature story and the death of Robin Williams. 

Aboriginal resources being developed for NSW communities

  • Over the past 12 months there has been continued partnership and consultation with the Aboriginal communities  involved in  focus groups and stakeholder forums as well as additional community representatives and partner organisations to ensure that the Conversations Matter resources for Aboriginal communities are culturally appropriate, safe and reflective of the needs of the community.

  • This process has seen increased involvement from the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC),  which has culminated in an upcoming training and consultation session with Social and Emotional Wellbeing workers employed in Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) from across New South Wales (to occur December 2014).

  • The resources have been drafted in line with the information collected from consultations with community members and stakeholders from the Awabakal (Newcastle), Biripi (Taree) and Gomeroi (Tamworth) areas. These drafts require further review and sign off from these Aboriginal communities and are anticipated to be launched in late 2014. 

Reports detailing the initial consultation process were released for Close the Gap Day (20 March 2014) and are available for download from the Conversations Matter website here.