With the 2019 National Suicide Prevention Conference officially opening with statements from the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, it is clear that suicide prevention is and will continue to be a significant national priority.
Opening with a stirring welcome to country from Jane Galpin, followed by extensive sector insight from Suicide Prevention Australia Chair Ms Angela Emslie, the conference set the tone early by placing a significant focus on collaboration.
In a recorded statement to the room, Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasised that the Australian government understands the need for action around suicide prevention on a national scale.
“Suicide is a national priority of unparalleled significance that requires a whole of government and whole of community response,” Mr Morrison said.
The Prime Minister’s comments were followed by an address from Everymind Director, Jaelea Skehan who reflected on her 16 year history in attending the National Suicide Prevention Conferences, encouraging all delegates in attendance to embrace every opportunity to share their voice.
“I have had the privilege of meeting so many of you at my first NSPC conference 16 years ago and I encourage all of you to have a conversation with everyone you meet, share your voice, especially to those who have the ear of government because your voice could help shape policy,” Ms Skehan said.
Following Ms Skehan, a fitting and eloquent acknowledgement of lived experience was provided by CEO of Roses in the Ocean Bronwen Edwards who acknowledged the value and importance of including lived experience voices in the work being done across the suicide prevention sector.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray spoke to room, reflecting on how far the sector has when it comes to collaboration, using similar language and supporting each other for a collective goal.
This was further emphasised when the Honourable Julia Gillard took to the stage where she provided a candid and thoughtful speech for the Diego De Leo address.
“Suicide is a very complex phenomenon and will never have a linear solution,” Ms Gillard said.
“We need to take suicide out of the shadows and talk about it.“The most powerful memento from the #YouCanTalk campaign, which was launched last year is the power of collaboration.
“This is our moment. Too many lives are being lost and we must not do as we have always done, there is always more.”
Ms Gillard’s stirring sentiments drew a standing ovation from the packed room of more than 650 delegates and key note speakers who received the resounding call to action that working together continues to be an important way forward in addressing suicide.
Following inspirational words from Ms Gillard, the #YouCanTalk collaborative group took to the stage to encourage attendees to share and engage with the campaign following the launch of a new survey targeting the suicide prevention sector. Which can be accessed here.
Throughout the first day’s sessions there were a number of highlights from key note speakers who prompted discussion around stigma, lived experience and person-centred language with multiple references to Brene Brown.
Among attendees much was discussed around how far the inclusion of lived experience voices has come in the last 20 years, with a lived experience keynote presentation taking the stage on day one of the NSPC program.
CEO & Founder, Humannovations, Mr Eduardo Vega challenged some Australian thinking and practice at times, but provided some useful and deeper insights on what language means and communications about suicide.
He spoke of the need for care not to feel like punishment and for our language to focus less on risks and deficits and more on growth and empowerment.
Dr David Webb was another highlight for delegates during the first day, as he provided fascinating insight as being one of the first recorded people with lived experience to do a PhD on suicide from a lived experience perspective.
Dr Webb has been attending suicide prevention conferences for more than two decades and talked about the personal and political conversations about suicide and the to shift away from a medical model to a human rights model based on care and compassion.
He also suggested that we need to look upstream and ask ourselves how we can create mentally healthy and psychologically safer communities for all people so that we can turn our Suicide rates around.
Touching further on lived experiences and the challenges Lived Experience Participation Manager, Black Dog Institute Mrs Jo Riley appealed to the suicide prevention sector to continue to provide a seat at the table for lived experienced voices.
“We have now opened the door to lived experience and provided a seat at the table but we need to think deeply about how we best use the expertise by experience, match types of experience to the work at hand, and how we value and support those giving this lived experience and expertise,” said Mrs Riley.
Visit the Life in Mind NSPC landing page for more insight around discussions, quotes, highlights, videos and social media commentary from day one of the 2019 National Suicide Prevention Conference: www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au/NSPC-2019