How we work

How we work

Using an evidence-based approach to suicide prevention, the Collaborative aims to build a culture where, rather than working in silos, people and organisations are committed to playing their role as part of a community. Together, we have a shared mission to reduce suicides in the Illawarra Shoalhaven. We aim to achieve this through:

  1. Genuine collaboration – Anyone is welcome to join the Collaborative, and the growing diversity of our membership echoes the need for a whole-of-community approach. Collaborative members contribute their insights and skills via the various working groups, at monthly meetings, or by supporting and advocating for suicide prevention efforts out in the community. All members have an equal say, and all contributions are respected and welcome.
  2. Making sure what we do works – Before undertaking any work or activities, the Collaborative looks at the evidence for what’s needed, and the evidence for what will successfully address those needs. We consult the suicide prevention literature, as well as the practical wisdom of our local communities and the expertise of people with lived experience of suicide.
  3. The value of lived experience – The meaningful inclusion of people with lived experience underpins all that we do. We’ve achieved this by having people with lived experience leading activities such as the Safe Space working group and bereavement support campaign.

What the Collaborative has achieved so far

Since its launch five years ago, the Collaborative has implemented a wide range of innovative and locally produced programs and services across the Illawarra Shoalhaven region.

In the early stages, the Collaborative was a trial site for the LifeSpan framework: an evidence-based, integrated approach to suicide prevention developed by the Black Dog Institute. As a LifeSpan trial site, the aim was to build a safety net for the Illawarra Shoalhaven community by connecting and coordinating new and existing programs in the region, and involving people with lived experience of suicide.

The integration of LifeSpan into the Collaborative’s ethos resulted in one of the most comprehensive regional suicide prevention efforts ever undertaken in Australia. The Collaborative has successfully developed and delivered a range of suicide prevention initiatives to connect local people with the right support, such as the following projects:

  • Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training  We continue to facilitate and promote Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) suicide prevention training across the region. In 2018, the Collaborative partnered with the Illawarra Mercury newspaper to run #care2qpr, an award-winning media campaign that resulted in almost 3,000 people signing up for the training.
  • Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) training  We continue to support the rollout of Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) across local schools. YAM is a school-based program that teaches young people how to look after themselves and their school mates. In 2019, the training was delivered to more than 6,900 students in Year 9. The Collaborative worked closely on all aspects of the program’s implementation, from preparing resources and recruiting schools, to coordinating YAM instructors.
  • Safe Spaces  Our lived experience members continue to be involved in the development of Safe Spaces: drop-in spaces staffed by peer workers with their own lived experience of crisis and recovery. These spaces aim to provide a genuine alternative to emergency departments for people in suicidal distress.
  • 'Where to go for support' resource – In 2019, we developed a ‘Where to go for support’ resource that highlights local support services. More than 23,000 resources have now been distributed by local organisations and community groups.
  • NextSteps In 2017, we contributed to the development of new services that improve support for people impacted by suicide. This includes the local NextSteps program, an aftercare program for people who have presented to an emergency department for a suicidal crisis. The program supports a person's transition from hospital-based care to the community.