In February 2017, MercyCare sponsored Lisa Forestell and Caroline White from the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community to come to Western Australia to inform and demonstrate the very successful Alternatives to Suicide Program that their organisation runs in the United States.
This was to be the start of the journey into the first WA peer led initiative for supporting people who have attempted suicide or are struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Alternatives to suicide groups focus on supporting people with suicidal ideation or those who are suicide attempt survivors by using peer support in a group setting, enlisting others with lived experience in the area to facilitate the groups.
It is a peer run intervention, that has in the US has proven to be of immense benefit.
People who have attended groups have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet with others in similar circumstances, providing them with hope for their future and a greater sense of self determination.
The groups are facilitated by people who have undertaken the Facilitators Training run by Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community.
The main forum held in February 2017 hosted by MercyCare was attended by over 350 people, an audience ranging from high level decision makers in Mental Health policy in Western Australia, mental health professionals to those with a lived experience.
There were representatives from all areas of the WA community including aged care, childcare, fostering services, Aboriginal services, youth services, migrant support services, disability services, universities and LGBTQIA community.
The reaction from this audience was of resounding support for the initiative, with strong calls for its introduction in Western Australia.
The interest in further exploring this approach was so strong a decision was made to bring the US trainers back to Perth in 2018.
In March this year the trainers ran several forums and trainings including a facilitator’s three day training event.
It is early days for the implementation of this approach in Western Australia and there is much learning still taking place, but the enthusiasm continues within organisations, individuals and peer groups.
As the lead organisation in this venture, MercyCare would like to thank all of those involved and commends their continued support and work.
A special thank you to the WA Steering Committee:
CoMHWA, ConnectGroups, HelpingMinds, Suicide Prevention Australia, University of WA (Centre for Aboriginal Medicine and Dentistry), Margaret Doust, Ella Macnish and Kai Schweizer (individual members).
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance please call the support services of Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.