As many of the 670 delegates from the 2019 National Suicide Prevention Conference (NSPC) continue reflect on the discussions had during the course of the conference, Life in Mind reached out to a number of attendees to capture their personal highlights from an event which inspired collaboration and passionate discussion across the board.
Attracting attendance from 308 organisations and more than 130 presentations scheduled over the course of the three-day event, NSPC was always going to provide a melting pot of perspectives and insights but some significant highlights for many was the space given to the voices of lived experience.
Roses in the Ocean CEO Bronwen Edwards said the allocation of a dedicated concurrent stream for lived experience reflected a significant milestone for the suicide prevention sector.
“This conference was the first time the presence of lived experience of suicide was actually palpable, and whilst there is a long way to go, it does feel as though the sector is truly united in action with people with a lived experience of suicide,” Ms Edwards said.
For conference organisers from Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA), there were many highlights and key learnings according to SPA Board Director Stan Piperoglou.
“It was inspiring to see such passionate people come together at NSPC 19 both as speakers and as general conference participants including those with lived experience,” Mr Piperoglou said.
“It was enlightening to learn about suicide prevention programs - especially local initiatives and it was especially good to hear federal and state government speakers inform the conference of their suicide prevention programs.
“I hope that NSPC 19 gave people further encouragement to improve and develop suicide prevention initiatives now and into the future.”
According to SPA CEO Nieves Murray seeing collaboration in action at the event was incredibly rewarding.
“One thing that especially stood out to Suicide Prevention Australia as a key highlight of NSPC 19 were the connections we saw being formed and fostered at the Conference,” Ms Nieves said.
“Whether it was during a break, one of the networking events or at the LiFE Awards, we saw opportunities for collaboration emerging.
“We hope all attendees harness these connections and use them as we collectively work towards our goal of suicide prevention.”
A popular speaker at NSPC19 was Dr Alys Cole King, Director at 4 Mental Health who traveled from the UK to deliver the pre-conference workshops and a keynote address.
She left the conference filled with inspiration for future work and collaboration and said there were so many highlights, it was hard to distill it down to one.
“Suicide is not inevitable and a paradigm shift is required,” Dr King said.
“This is why events such as NSPC19 are vital to share the latest thinking and best practice.
“We need to move away from ineffective attempts to predict risk as a means of allocating care (or not) to the adoption of a compassionate, shared understanding with the person in distress, holistic personalised risk mitigation and safety planning which is core throughout all of our Connecting with People programs.
“In academia, we also need democratisation when it comes to lived experience, everyone has the right to keep themselves safe and keep others safe and we need to move beyond saving someone’s life and make their life worth living, we need to start there.”
While countless insightful comments and thoughts were shared at the event, perhaps among the most galvanising were the words from the Honourable Julia Gillard.
Ms Gillard who opened the event with her Diego De Leo address provided fitting words for the sector reflect upon when considering the work needing to be done moving forward.
“Never before have public sentiment, political will, and our sectors been so aligned. This is our moment,” Ms Gillard said.
“In every part of our country and for the sake of our society and economy, we need to continue to stress that maintaining good mental health and preventing suicide is a social, economic and political imperative.
“Suicide is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, but that does not mean we cannot achieve change. When we work together, Australians can make the seemingly impossible possible.”