Showcasing: Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network

Lead agency
Wesley Lifeforce and Lifeline

Hunter New England and Central Coast

Living Well Domains

  • Making it local
  • Getting in Earlier

Program overview

The Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network (the network) is a local initiative created to reduce the impact of suicide in the community. It provides education about available services and identifies gaps in services. The network involves community members in physical, mental, spiritual and social activities to build a sense of belonging and connection among each other as well as aiming to reduce stigma around suicide.


The network is managed by experienced volunteers with training provided by Wesley Lifeforce and Lifeline. Initial funding of $5,000 from Wesley Lifeforce is supplemented by community donations. 


Prior to establishment of the network, access to information and support services for people grieving a death by suicide was limited. Guidance in navigating and communicating with a range of agencies (Police, the coroner, health and others) at a time of grief is challenging and support to navigate agencies was also identified as a need.


In 2008, a community forum was held in Port Stephens involving 45 concerned local people and key leaders in human service agencies. The forum advocated for a coordinated and collaborative approach to suicide prevention. This led to the formation of the Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network which had a key role in identifying and researching existing local services.

The network is comprised of the following:  

A.    Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth are a group of community volunteers established in 2015, with no agenda other than to support the community’s young people. In 2016, the group engaged the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (at University of Newcastle) who carried out a needs analysis of the Port Stephens area*.  The research report evaluated gaps in existing mental health service provision for youth in this region and made recommendations that would see a significant positive impact. It was identified that initiatives often occurred in isolation with limited coordination across sectors. The research recognised the need for better promotion of evidence-based strategies, strengthening existing services and better coordination. In addition, access barriers particularly travel and cost, limited access to mental health services.

*Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth (COPSY) Mental Health of Port Stephens Youth Needs Analysis Study. Prepared by the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, University of Newcastle for COPSY. [np], 2016. Report can be downloaded from

B.    Approximately 180 people participated in an annual “Walk with Us” including speakers who have lived experience of mental health issues. This representation assists in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. 

C.     Over 100 individuals, groups and business supporters have participated in restoring a swampy reserve at Boat Harbour, creating walking paths, the construction of a seat and obelisk as a dedicated place for love, remembrance, reflection, inspiration and direction. This has been seen to promote conversations about suicide prevention. Many people walk, exercise and play on the park with their children and dogs. Port Stephens Council provided a $3,000 grant for the Obelisk  (See image to the right) .


Outcomes of the network include: 

  • The network initiates training with Wesley and Lifeline and circulates resources for mental health, conducts research and encourages best practice
  • The network has conducted 11 suicide prevention training programs for around 400 people
  • It facilitated a Survivors of Suicide Support Group
  • The network actively engages with local media to reduce stigma around suicide, raise awareness of suicide and available services 
  • The annual “Walk with Us” highlights World Suicide Prevention Day 
  • The network also has placed emergency help signs on bus shelters
  • The network doesn’t provide direct services for people at risk of suicide, rather it provides police and emergency services with prevention and postvention information. 

Next steps

The network continues to:

  • promote community education on suicide and its effects e.g. stigma, shame, ignorance
  • promote labyrinths as a community resource for healing as a passive exercise and a strategy to develop mindfulness
  • identify and research existing services – networking with Council, interagency groups, community services and online directories
  • raise awareness of services in the community to increase knowledge, empathy and support for those who are vulnerable and those affected by mental illness and suicide
  • improve information and support for bereaved people dealing with agencies within the system (police, coroner, health and others)
  • provide police and emergency services with prevention and postvention information 
  • provide training workshops and resources in suicide prevention 
  • hold the annual “Walk with Us” community event
  • build community awareness, knowledge, empathy and support for those who are vulnerable and those affected by suicide. 

Case study submitted by: 
Elizabeth Schiemer, Secretary, Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network, 5/6/19
Tel: 49 821236