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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bereaved through Suicide Conference Sydney2012

Spent the last 2 days at the Salvation Army Hope, Meaning and Direction Bereaved Through Suicide conference in Sydney at Leighton Hall, Uni NSW in Kensington. Excellently attended, a large number of eminent speakers including one from Ireland (Barry McGale) and four from the United States (Madelyn Gould, Michelle Linn-Gust, Jack Jordan and Jerry Reed).
I was highly honoured by Alan Staines' invitation to chair all the keynote sessions, so I had a fantastic opportunity to meet, greet and host.
Each of the keynote sessions were opened by a bereaved through suicide person (in US terms, a 'survivor'). Heart and gut wrenching, but grounding. In addition, so many of the professionals there had also lost loved ones, so the general atmosphere was collaborative and caring. My hope is that those who found themselves emotional at any time were able to get sufficient support on the day.
The final panel session sadly did not include Madelyn (who had to return to the US), but to the names above we added Judith Murray, Barbara Hocking, Barbara Wingard, Tom Brideson and Diana Sands - a regular 'brains trust'. We only had an hour and a half, but I hope all of them felt they got a fair go to make some points about the future actions necessary in this field of endeavour.
We had questions from the floor, with Dave picked up Michelle's comments about the need to work better with media, by asking about the restricted media representation of suicide (2200 pa) compared to car accidents (1200 pa) and murders (800 pa). This provoked a vibrant discussion. Kate added to this with the complexity getting media exposure regarding The Gap in Sydney. Tony raised the issue of lack of openness in investigations of suicides occurring in mental health services. Raylee commented on the contribution of some courageous bereaved who had acknowledged suicide in public death notices. Vern raised the issue of how to get helpful information about relevant services easily and quickly after a suicide in the family, and Louise commented on possibilities for online management of an active database. Jill raised new services which were trying to provide services, but this led to debate on the range of services and problems with duplication, and the fact we forget about active services over 10 years or so and then 'recreate the wheel'. Several speakers (Jack, Jerry, Barbara, Tom) acknowledged the power of the group of bereaved people getting together to make change, and and Barry opened up the new thinking about Social Media and the opportunities for access to information at the local level. Alan Staines suggested the need for a national body to bring together all the activities in support of bereaved through suicide in Australia, and this was met with general acclaim.
I reminded people in closing that "When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done", and what we need is action.
Postvention IS Prevention.

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