SPA Knowledge Exchange Webinar Highlights: Safe Spaces

Posted 3rd August 2021 in SPA Knowledge Exchange 2021

The first in a series of three Suicide Prevention Australia Knowledge Exchange Webinars has explored safe spaces - walk-in services offering a non-clinical and welcoming environment to people experiencing suicidal crisis.

The webinar was moderated by Roses in the Ocean CEO Bronwyn Edwards, who said government investment in non-clinical supports around Australia was encouraging, and welcomed by communities who had called for this over many years. 

The first speaker was Ellie Hodges, Executive Director at Lived Experience Leadership & Advocacy Network, speaking on ‘Care Not Treatment’ - a study on what people with lived experience of suicide distress said what helped, what harmed and what could support them better. 

Ellie said the project found that 81% of lived experience participants 'strongly disagreed' or 'disagreed' that they felt safe and comfortable in the emergency department.

Associate Professor Michelle Banfield, Head of Lived Experience Research at the Centre for Mental Health Research, spoke about research called 'Co creating Safe Spaces' which has just received funding.

As a researcher with lived experience, Dr Banfield aims to contribute to pilot safe space projects becoming permanent.

The research is co-evaluating the co-created spaces and will focus on the experiences of the guests and the staff, how it’s working and how it can be better.

The next speaker, Juliet Middleton, General Manager Community and Residential at Stride, emphasised that Safe Spaces are a partnership, providing trained mental health professionals who are from the community.

Juliet mentioned the dedicated Safe Haven sensory spaces that help visitors engage the senses and self regulate their behaviour. Safe spaces are about establishing a community-based moment, Juliet said, rather than a single service delivery response. 

Mark Ellis, lived experience advocate and service leader at Stride, described people with lived experience as “instruments of change”. Photos of the Wollongong Safe Haven showed a warm and welcoming environment, which in the words of Mark, “just holds you and doesn’t judge you.” 

Factors in the success of the Wollongong Safe Haven were years of advocacy by the community, and a dedication to maintaining the authenticity of the co-design model, Mark said.

Wrapping up the webinar, Bronwen Edwards said the message from communities was clear: they wanted choices. The Roses in the Ocean founder said people are the experts in their own lives.

Life in Mind is pleased to partner with Suicide Prevention Australia for the Knowledge Exchange webinar series.

To continue exploring this topic, visit the Life in Mind webpage on Safe spaces: /safe-spaces - Life in Mind Australia

If you or someone you know has been impacted by this information or needs help, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, phone emergency services on 000.