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My first week in Sydney!

*Emotional trigger warning – content involves suicide*

19th May 2019

My research as a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellow here in Australia continues to inspire me! I have visited 4 organisations in the past week in Sydney, all doing fantastic work for suicide prevention and support across Australia. I’m hearing about so many initiatives and good-practice that we could apply in the UK, funds permitted.

Earlier this week, I spent the day with Lifeline Australia at their office in central Sydney. They are a helpline that has operated for nearly 60 years, with the tagline, ‘Australia free of Suicide’. Since they have offices across Australia, my meetings with 5 staff members were held in person and via Skype. I learned that more people contact Lifeline than any other helpline, with over one million people per year calling for a phone chat, and some for an online chat. They already offer SMS services, but are currently looking into increasing their digital offering with more online chat and email services. Rachel Bowes, Acting Executive Director for Operations, hosted me for the day and introduced me to the rest of the very friendly team, who are all passionate about making a difference to suicide prevention in Australia. One area I was really impressed with was their research into Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help reach out to people online who express suicidal ideation or intention. I am looking forward to seeing that research and what they put in place to connect with help-seekers. Read more about them here.

(L-R) Richard Brimble – National Manager, Naomi Watkins – CEO NWCH, Rachel Bowes – Acting Executive Director for Operations

Later in the week, I visited Australian’s foremost suicide prevention organisation, aptly named, Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA). I was welcomed by Alan Woodward, a SPA advisor for all thing’s mental health and suicide prevention. NWCH have just become a member of SPA and I will attend their 4-day Suicide Prevention conference in Melbourne in July 2019, where they have invited me to showcase a poster presentation of my research findings. More than 100 organisations of are SPA members, comprised of organisations of all sizes, plus individual and associate members. SPA has 10 office-based staff in Sydney, yet despite being a small NGO (non-government organisation), it represents members across Australia and supports them in their work. See their work here.

(L-R) Naomi Watkins – NWCH, Alan Woodward – SPA

I also visited another Headspace centre in Camperdown where Dr Blake Hamilton, the Clinical Services Manager, hosted me. This centre is closely linked to The University of Sydney through the brain and mind research centre. This centre in Camperdown sees around 1200-1500 young people between the ages of 12 to 25 years, for about 5000 occasions of service. This centre’s headspace early intervention team, funded by the Primary Health Network (PHN), supports more complex cases and provides an early intervention in psychosis service. Other organisations also work out of this centre, including Relationships Australia who running a family therapy clinic one day a week, and Wesley Mission that provides support for young people who are either homeless or at risk of being homeless. They also have University researchers in this office and employment services specifically aimed at young people. In total, more than 45 people work out of this centre providing excellent holistic support and care to young people. Inspiring! You can read more here.

At the end of the week, I was invited to Twenty10’s LGBTQIA+ event ‘Well Played’. Twenty10 is a New South Wales based not-for-profit organisation that supports LGBTIQA+ young people. Their new campaign ‘Well Played’ highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion in sport and physical activity and the positive impact it has on young people’s health and wellbeing. The campaign was launched on the night by Kate Jenkins – Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, and it comprised of a film screening and a live panel discussion. It was both incredibly moving and exciting to see such forward thinking here in Australia. Watch the film here (please share this far and wide) and read more about the organisation here.

Kate Jenkins – Sex Discrimination Commissioner – Australian Human Rights Commission

I have a jam-packed week ahead for my last week in Sydney, seeing another 5 organisations and I’m invited to another event in Parliament House! Watch this space for more updates!