Northern Beaches Council leads the way in suicide prevention

Posted 5th August 2020 by Nicole Guyder in General

The Life in Mind team is shining the spotlight on the suicide prevention work led by Northern Beaches Council

Northern Beaches Council was the first NSW council to proudly sign the National Communications Charter on World Suicide Prevention Day in 2019.  

“The National Communications Charter outlines the role we all have to play in encouraging and equipping our community to have life-changing conversations and make stigma around mental ill-health and suicide something of the past,” Northern Beaches Mayor, Michael Regan said. 

“I encourage you to take a look at The Charter, and its messages about these topics.

“Our council was also the only council to be invited to be a part of the NSW Government’s Towards Zero Suicide Premier’s Priority and Living Well Framework. 

“I would like to thank our Community Development team for their great work in ensuring we are leaders in this sector.” 

Earlier this year, the Council took out the Community Partnerships & Collaboration category at the NSW Local Government Excellence Awards, recognised for their coordination of the Northern Beaches Suicide Response (The Response). The Response initiative focuses on coordination, communication, advocacy, intervention and postvention related to suicide prevention within the council area. The Mental Health Commission of NSW, in its Living Well Mid Term Review, highlighted The Response as an exemplar of best practice. 

As part of The Response, the Council co-chaired a local Steering Group with the Northern Beaches Police Command and various key local agencies and services including CCNB and Lifeline Northern Beaches. Following implementation of strategies within a local Action Plan, suicide rates between 2018 and 2019 decreased by almost a third; safety and the coordination of local service delivery has improved; and targeted suicide intervention training was delivered to over 400 community members and 40 police.

Some of the key suicide prevention activities led by Northern Beaches Council include: 

Northern Beaches Suicide Postvention Protocol Pilot

One of the key achievements of the Steering Group has been the establishment of the Northern Beaches Suicide Postvention Protocol Pilot (the Protocol) in July 2019, which provides a coordinated response following a death by suicide or following a serious suicide attempt. 

Research shows one of the strongest indicators of a suicide attempt is a previous attempt or being closely connected to someone attempting. After several critical incidents in 2018 and 2019, coordinating the local service system response was identified as a priority to respond to suicide in an effective, timely and coordinated way. 

The Northern Beaches Police Area Command, Lifeline Northern Beaches, the Council and CCNB worked closely to adapt other postvention models to support families and the community. Funded and delivered by CCNB as the Response Coordinator, an independent evaluation was conducted by UNSW, highlighting the importance of the Protocol.  

Suicide Prevention Community Gatekeeper Training Initiative

Improving suicide intervention skills was a key strategy identified in the Response Action Plan. Northern Beaches was the only NSW council awarded $340,000 funding over three years from the NSW Ministry of Health towards the Suicide Prevention Community Gatekeeper Training Initiative.  

As part of the initiative, Council developed the ‘Safe and Sound’ webinar series to build participants’ knowledge of key issues affecting the local community. Council has planned a further series of webinars and podcasts, and plans to engage with Everymind to bring Mindframe training to local services, gatekeepers, community leaders, social media influencers and administrators to promote positive mental health and messaging.   

Council has worked closely with Northern Beaches Police and Lifeline Australia to improve safety at key headland locations. This has involved redesign of viewing platforms, inward curving fencing, installation of natural barriers and vegetation, and Lifeline Australia help seeking signage. 

Council has partnered with Wesley LifeForce to establish a Local Suicide Prevention Network on the Northern Beaches to bring the community into this important conversation. 

More information about The Response, the Steering Group, events, training, volunteering opportunities and community resources can be viewed here.