A suicide prevention workshop was held recently with Fiona Livingstone teaching potentially lifesaving information to about 20 people at the Smithurst Theatre.
The workshop explored how to identify when a person is thinking of suicide, how to ask someone directly and what to do if they say yes.
Ms Livingstone addressed some of the common misconceptions about suicide.
“There is a myth that talking about suicide can put that idea into someone’s head – that is completely untrue,” she said.
“[Another] is only certain types of people think about suicide.”
Suicide is a sensitive topic and people may ‘dance’ around it rather than engage.
“I think the biggest concern that people have when it comes to asking someone about suicide is ‘what if they say yes?’
“It is okay and it is safe to talk about suicide and that doing [so] is lifesaving,” Ms Livingstone said.
“By sweeping it under the carpet, we are not doing justice to anyone or anything.”
She has been working in the industry for 10 years and has been doing similar workshops for almost as long.
“One of my favourite groups to train is the general community like what we had here [at the workshop] – some people come to represent a workplace, some people come just because they want to learn more,” she said.
“There is a real belief that people have of ‘I am not possibly going to be able to help someone if I’m not a doctor, or psychologist, or counsellor’ and it’s just not true.
“Virtually anyone can learn how to do this in the same way almost anyone can learn how to do physical first aid.
“It is a real privilege to be able to empower people so they can actually do this and help equip them with the skills needed to navigate these sorts of conversations.”
She finds that people are always eager to engage after the workshop to let her know they learnt something new.
Occasionally, she will receive a phone call or an email letting her know someone had to use what was taught.
Some people believed if they had not done the workshop, they would not have known to have a conversation.
“That is very, very rewarding to hear when people do go off to use those skills,” she said. “It is one of those things that I am sure everyone hopes they will never have to use but if they do, they know how.”
For each safe talk workshop that Ms Livingstone runs, she has a person to provide one-on-one support while presenting.
Also represented at the workshop was Elinor Anderson from StandBy, a service that assists those who are affected by a person dying by suicide.
This could include friends, family, community members, schools, first responders, witnesses and anyone who has felt the effects.
“It really gives people practical ways of how to get through those times,” Ms Livingstone said.
Living Works receives funding from the NSW government which is used for the workshops.
She thanked the Gunnedah Shire Council for providing a free venue along with the Rotary club for organising an advertisement in the Gunnedah Times and promoting the workshop.
“I always say to people in the same way it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to prevent a suicide, and this is just one example of the community really coming together,” Ms Livingstone said.
“We cannot prevent every single suicide but there is a lot that we can do.”
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