As RUOK? Day approaches this week, we are reminded of the value of human connection; taking the time to have meaningful conversations with those around us and being prepared to really listen.

The power of a conversation cannot be understated and it is this concept that forms the cornerstone of The Way Back Support Service (The Way Back). Designed by beyondblue, The Way Back provides non-clinical care and practical support for up to three months following a suicide attempt, a period known to be particularly critical in a person’s recovery as they are at a higher risk of a further attempt. The team has recently expanded to include an Aboriginal Support Coordinator to work closely with the Indigenous community – a group at particularly high risk of suicide.

The service works collaboratively with its referring partner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and has been running in the Hunter since 2016. It has supported more than 1,000 people in their recovery after a suicide attempt. The service provides a listening ear, encouragement to link in with services and assistance with safety planning. A safety plan is a structured guide that you can work through when you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, feelings, distress or crisis. Each person’s plan is unique and it steps you through things that you can do yourself, such as distraction or coping strategies, as well as people you can contact for support and emergency crisis numbers. A beyondblue-developed app – BeyondNow – enables people to develop their own safety plan with support from their GP and family. The app is free and can be downloaded to smartphones from the Apple Store, Google Play or accessed online. BeyondNow puts life-saving tools in people’s back pockets where it is available anytime they reach crisis point or need support.

The Way Back team in Newcastle are proud to be running the largest trial site in the country. About 200 Australians attempt suicide every day and we know the suicide rate among people discharged from hospital after suicidal thoughts or behaviour is 200 times that of the global rate.  When people are discharged from hospital, the Way Back can provide practical, one-on-one support that links them to treatment and support networks.

 What if your friend, colleague or loved one isn’t ok? What do I say? I don’t know how to help?

 It is recognised that these are common questions many of us experience when we sense that someone isn’t travelling so well emotionally. There are now some great resources designed to help us all be better equipped to respond. QPR, is a brief online training available right now in our community at just $10. It stands for Question. Persuade. Refer: three steps anyone can learn to help prevent suicide. Think of it like CPR for our feelings. Imagine the potential and ripple effect if the whole community got behind this.

We can all play a part in suicide prevention and it can start with a simple question, are you ok?

Danielle Adams, Operations Manager – The Way Back Support Service Newcastle

The Way Back Support Service in Newcastle is delivered by a group of organisations led by Hunter Primary Care and includes Calvary Mater Newcastle, Hunter New England Mental Health Services, Everymind and Relationships Australia NSW

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