Why & Where - The journey began
Like all journeys, there is a reason or a purpose for the journey. Our purpose was to address the unusually high rate of suicide amongst a rural community which, not unlike, other communities had been undergoing many social changes over the past 20 years. It was through this sense of actually wanting to do something about the suicide rate, that this community banded together to take positive action in reducing the suicide rate.
The journey began with a widely representative group of professionals from the community who met in mid 2000 to discuss the poor state of health services available for residents of the Kentish Municipality in Tasmania (population of 5,500 people in an area of over 1,100 square kilometers). A group was formed, called the Health Investigation Committee of Kentish or the HICK Committee for short. In May 2001 HICK commissioned a consultancy company (ERS Consultancies) to undertake a health needs assessment of Kentish with funds from the Rural Health department of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.
The research confirmed what the HICK committee had believed – that the Kentish Municipality was an area of extreme socio-economic disadvantage: that it was one of the most disadvantaged Municipalities in Tasmania.
It was from this report that Tandara Lodge Kentish Health Centre was formed with funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.
What also came from the report was what many local people knew, that was the suicides which had occurred between 1996 to 2001 had touched the community in one way or another. We also knew that before 1996 there have been suicides in the community but this was not confirmed by the statistical evidence, and that several suicides outside the municipality have had direct effect on the Kentish community.
Given the highly developed networks and social inter relatedness of the Kentish community the suicides from 1999 onwards have had an impact far greater than might be expected.
With this in mind Tandara Lodge Kentish Health Centre set out to address the suicide problem in a positive manner.
Our first funding submission to the National Suicide Prevention Strategy in April 2002 was unsuccessful, however we were not about to give up and a second submission was sent to the Tasmanian Community Fund in August 2002, with funding being granted on 11th November 2002. We were about to begin what would prove a journey of discovery and a successful one.
It is therefore important when you read this journey to realise that it is about people who have been directed affected by suicide as many small rural communities are and it is through being affected that this community reaches out to other communities and offers them the chance to heal in the same way.
The name CORES
The name CORES came after much discussion, with an emphasis on the Community aspect of what we wanted to do. We believe this is the only model of its type to be developed in this manner. Therefore, in preparing to launch the CORES (Community Response to Eliminating Suicide) project it was important to look at the best way to reach the community and to ensure that our passion towards hope and healing was going to be understood and well received by the community as a whole. As an important part of what we wanted to achieve was to give to people the ability to “do something” when they came across somebody who showed the signs. All too often people have said, “I saw the signs”, but I did not know what to do. Well, this journey was about educating people as to what to do.
As the name suggests, the Elimination of suicide was the object of CORES, and with this aim in sight the project set about having a zero suicide rate for Kentish. The journey was going to take us just under two years to complete.
The Journey is told as a series of questions and statements, as to why we did what we did and hopefully this will give others the ideas of what we achieved through this project. Please read and absorb and hopefully you too may travel this journey in the near future.
It was decided to launch the project with a dinner function and included a wide range of representatives from the community that we envisaged would be involved and work with us, and themselves to achieve the aims and objectives of the project.
The aim of a formal launch of the project was to gain the support of people in the community who both had an interest in suicide issues and were those who worked in and amongst the community, such as the local pharmacist, local shop keepers, etc, who came into contact with people on a regular basis. in other words those who were in contact with people on a regular basis.
The dinner was not only well attended, it gave an initial “kick start” to the project, with people being briefed on the project aimed to achieve.
What was the idea behind a CORES team?
The formation of a community group was vital for the project to achieve its goal of eliminating suicide, so it was at the launch that an invitation was extended to those interested in forming the CORES Team.
The idea was to target the key people in the community and train them to identify and read the signs of suicide and to then to work together as an ongoing network throughout the community monitoring and being involved actively in suicide prevention. We needed to equip the team with skills to be able to identify those at risk, being able read the signs and then work with those at risk, as well as providing the team members with support from the team leaders and each other.
The other element, which was important for the members of the team, was that other training would be given in areas such as, how to refer people at risk onto the appropriate bodies, how to network effectively, communication skills and dealing with conflict situations. These additional skills allowed the team to grow during the project, to a point where they were an affective team within the community and the general community knew who they were.
Why we needed community involvement
It was always our “dream” to have the community work together in order to achieve our goal and for the project to be successful it was important to involve the community, not only as part of the CORES team, in the training and education provided.
The project’s success depended on having community ownership of the program. We were aware of many occasions where groups from outside the community and delivered training, but then left. The community was to be empowered and skilled so the project would continue long after the training.
Who became a member of the CORES Team?
Community people who had an interest helping form a stronger, more resilient community. Most people knew the effect suicide had on their family, friends and the wider community. These people came from across the wide spectrum of the community, and involved people who not only worked in the community (such as other health professionals), but people from service clubs, shop keepers, carers and volunteers. Those who had a genuine interest became the team that formed the backbone of the project.
How does the CORES Team work?
The team met for the first time on the 14th April 2003, and has continued to meet monthly since then. The team has 50 people registered who attend the meetings and training sessions. This community group has worked together to highlight the problem of suicide by bringing the issues into the open for the community to deal with.
What was offered to the wider community?
An important part of this project was training the CORES team members and the community in general. The objective was to train 150 people (including the CORES team members) to try and reach as large a cross section of the community as possible and therefore enhance our chances of intervention and prevention of those people at risk of suicide.
How we choose the community leaders?
When deciding who would be trained we looked at our target group which included all age groups so with this in mind we chose to send the Manager of Kentish Health and a young community member, a 20 year old male who had shown a keen interest in the CORES project. The young community member had lost two of his friends to suicide and as a well known local identify fitted the criteria as a leader.
How was the team trained?
Training the CORES team was important for several reasons, as we needed to build the confidence of members and to produce a stable support network that could work together under pressure and when their skills were needed. Therefore, it was important to ensure that the team work well together and within the community.
Team training consisted of;
- Team Building
- Setting Boundaries and Referring
- Listening Skills and Resources
- Guest Speaker overview of The Good Grief Workshop
- Critical Incident Debriefing
- Suicide Postvention
- Good Grief Workshop (full day)
- Team Folders and training suggestion
- Stress Management
- Lost for Words Workshop (full day)
- First Aid
- Promotion of CORES Training
Why is it important to do team building?
TOGETHER EVERYONE ACHIEVES MORE
Team building (which in turn means community building) formed an important part of the project, as it is vital that everyone is works together and follows a similar path. Support and encouragement for each other and the community is what has made this program work.
To achieve this it was important to educate team members in issues other than suicide, team building exercises, communication, listening skills, looking after oneself. When working with a group of people who do not work or socialise with each other it is important that differences are identified and the trust of the team is built both between and within each other. Without this team building the project would not have been the success it was.
What was the affect on the overall community of the project?
When we commenced the project it was commonly believed that discussing suicide amongst the general public would only encourage the practice.
We decided to challenge this myth embarking upon a community advertising program to raise awareness of issues surrounding suicide and encourage members of the community to join the team.
This community promotion had a staggering affect as community members described a “healing’ process
Many people who undertook the courses offered in the project came to help themselves with personal healing after the experiences they had had with suicide. The overall affect on the local community was positive from all angles. There were no “downsides".
Did we have any other support system in place during the project?
An important part of the project was the ability of community members who required assistance was a contact with somebody they could talk to. Apart from the community members and the CORES team members the 24 hour, 7 day counseling service played a large part in being the contact with people who had suicidal thoughts or tendencies. When we commenced the project we were told by many experts that suicide was not a topic which should be discussed amongst the general public, as this would only encourage the practice. Therefore, it was with some reserve that we embarked upon a community advertising program to encourage members of the community to join in. The outcome was staggering, as this advertising did not encourage people to suicide, but rather to openly discuss what had been happening over previous years and a great deal of community healing took place.
Many people who undertook the courses offered in the project came to be personal healing from experiences they had had with suicide. The overall affect on the local community was positive from all angles. There were no “downsides”.
Did anybody use their training during the project?
There are many stories of people undertaking the training and then using their new skills. It is often said that within three months of the training you will utilize the new skills you have acquired.
One particular story from the project is that of one participant who had never had anything to do with suicide prevention training using these skills twice within two weeks of completing the training.
The first was the night after the training had been completed, and a phone call from a relative led to the identification of suicidal thoughts. Within an hour the person had agreed to seek help and was duly treated for depression and has now started to take steps in their lives to recovery. Again, at a conference, the subject came up and within a short time the participant was dealing with another case of somebody with suicidal thoughts. Again help was found and the person had now recovered. Will you use the training? You will never know until it may be too late.
Was the project successful?
At the time of writing this journey we are one month from the “official” close of the project. To date there have not been any suicides in Kentish since the program began, just under two years ago.
Further more, there have been nine preventions of suicides during this period.
That means nine people are still alive today that would have otherwise taken their lives. We will leave it to you to decide if the project has been successful?
The end of the journey?
When we commenced the journey, we had set ourselves a goal within a time frame. That was to eliminate suicide in Kentish over the two years of the project. We have achieved this goal and in some ways the journey has come to an end.
However, when we commenced the journey we also knew there would be no real end. The issue of suicide has always been with us, and the journey will never end in saving the lives of those people who have came to a stage where they feel life is no longer worth living. Now we want to expand our journey to other communities, to help heal and make whole those lives in need of support and love.