Mental health challenge for Berowra

Julian Leeser with the three speakers from the training (L to R) Daniel Merzrani who spoke about his experience, Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury CEO Wendy Carver and Cutty Felton, Lifeline trainer.
Julian Leeser with the three speakers from the training (L to R) Daniel Merzrani who spoke about his experience, Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury CEO Wendy Carver and Cutty Felton, Lifeline trainer.

There is an old story about a man walking along a beach littered with hundreds of washed-up, dying starfish. The man noticed a boy on the shoreline who was, one by one, throwing the starfish back into the ocean. The man was puzzled and said to the boy: “The beach stretches out for miles and there are hundreds of starfish, you cannot possibly make any difference.” The boy simply picked up one starfish and threw it back into the ocean, and said: “I made a difference for that one.”

This story was shared at the Lifeline training session I hosted recently for our local community leaders. More than 170 people undertook suicide prevention training through Lifeline’s Dare to Ask program (see page 10). Participants included representatives from local sports clubs, churches, Parents and Citizens groups, Rotary, Lions, Toastmasters, the Scouts and other civic groups.

The evening was a special one in the history of Berowra. It was the first time community leaders from across Berowra had been brought together for a common cause. I have challenged our community leaders to sign a pledge to roll out Lifeline’s ‘Accidental Counsellor’ training across their organisations over the next 12 months. Within days more than 20 organisations had already taken the pledge.

Sadly, eight people die by suicide in this country every day, and in our local area, there have been 106 suicides in the decade to 2016. However, as the parable of the starfish thrower tells us, we can save one person’s life at a time.

As someone bereaved by suicide, I don’t want another family to experience the grief and loss that we faced after my father’s death by suicide in 1996.

Since Dad’s death I have reflected on his behaviour the week before he died. Like so many families we were always a family that hugged each other but the week before dad died he started to give us these very long hugs. Like many men, my father was always proud of his parking but the week before he died he didn’t seem to care.

If I had recognised these signs and known what to do, I could have started a conversation that may have saved his life.

I want Berowra to be a community where more people recognise the signs and know what to do.

Lifeline’s ‘Accidental Counsellor’ program gives people those skills.

I am buoyed by the groundswell of support in our community towards taking decisive action. I am going to challenge my parliamentary colleagues to mobilise their electorates to undertake a similar program.

If you’re interested in rolling out the training in your community organisation or business, please contact my office on 9980 1822.

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