Region
North Sydney

Lead agency
Northern Beaches Council 

Living Well domain

  • Better Responses 
  • Making it local 

Program Overview

The Northern Beaches Council’s Community Safety Committee was determined to address the growing concerns in the community about deaths by suicide on the Northern Beaches. Northern Beaches Suicide Response was developed in July 2018 to improve safety in key locations, deliver suicide prevention gatekeeper training, and host a Suicide Prevention Roundtable for service providers, frontline responders and government agencies. 

Northern Beaches Suicide Response plays a leadership role assisting with communication, coordination, advocacy, intervention and postvention. This partnership runs on existing budgets within member organisations and has sought federal funding for three years to increase its capacity with a part time project officer.
 

Challenge

Suicide has had a significant impact on the northern beaches community, particularly over the past few years. The northern beaches have over 22 beaches and headlands along the coastline from Manly to Palm Beach. Local reporting suggests that a high proportion of those who died by suicide were local Northern Beaches residents. Suicide at a cliff top location has broad impact on the community as it can involve community members who are trying to intervene, those who witness a death, or those who are involved in retrieval generally first responders including emergency services or volunteer surf lifesavers. 

Public outpouring of grief over a spate of suicides of young people led to significant community anxiety and the formation of several local grassroots organisations. It was identified that a coordinated care approach was essential for individuals and their families. 
 

Solution

The Northern Beaches Suicide Response is led by the Northern Beaches Council including two community development officers focused on coordination, training and community engagement and a youth development officer focused on actions relevant to youth suicide. 

Members of Northern Beaches Suicide Response include representatives from Police, Lifeline Northern Beaches, Community Care Northern Beaches, Sydney North Primary Health Network and Northern Sydney Local Health District who provide their expertise in designing and implementing actions from the Northern Beaches Suicide Response Action Plan.
 

The Northern Beaches Suicide Response Action Plan has six goals:

  • Engage with the community
  • Train the community
  • Support the sector
  • Coordinate and collaborate
  • Restrict access to means
  • Build an evidence base.
     

The strength of this model is that it is a coordinated and comprehensive local partnership. All aspects of the model have been based on sourcing best practice programs initiated across Australia by research bodies or suicide prevention agencies. 

Outcome

Since August 2019, Mental Health First Aid for the suicidal person has been delivered to:  
88 first responders / emergency services 
164 community members 

One participant provided feedback: 
“I have gained knowledge and know that I am not afraid to ask questions about suicide. Courses like this and on mental illness are invaluable learning guides. The more courses on offer within the community I know will 'break down the barrier' on how mental illness is perceived”. 

Professional and Community Engagement (PACE) students from the Faculty of Human Sciences Department of Macquarie University will be completing a comprehensive Evaluation Framework to measure the results of this initiative.
 

Next Steps

SA critical incident response protocol is currently being developed to map how an intervention should be coordinated by key agencies and services following a death by suicide or a serious suicide attempt.

Council has commissioned Roses in the Ocean to facilitate the “Our Voice in Action” training workshop in June 2019 to ensure input from people with a lived experience of a suicide attempt or bereaved by suicide in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of the action plan. 

The future vision of the action plan is to establish a local Suicide Prevention Network with representatives from community based organisations, community members and those with lived experience to continue this coordinated and comprehensive local partnership in a long term and sustainable way.