Mental health is ‘everyone’s business’

Noelene Ward works for the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Action Group. (Damjan Janevski)248944_01

By Oliver Lees

With Friday marking World Suicide Prevention Day, a mother bereaved by suicide is encouraging the community to engage in more open dialogue on the topic of mental health.

Macedon Ranges resident Noelene Ward said her son did not meet any of the indicators for potential suicidality when he died by suicide in 2008.

“We didn’t know there was any issue with our son, we had never had a conversation with him that suicide was a permanent solution to a short-term problem,” Ms Ward said.

“We assumed he was on track because he appeared healthy and happy, at least that was what he showed us.

“Suicide is everyone’s business. If it’s discussed openly, then information on how to get help can be promoted and awareness is raised. You never know how much you can affect someone’s life.”

According to data collected by the Northern Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) in 2018, the annual suicide rate in the Macedon Ranges (17 per 100,000) was well above the national (11 per 100,000), and state (10 per 100,000) average.

The NWMPHN report states: “The Macedon Ranges is the only municipality that has a rate that is statistically significantly higher than the Australian rate”.

In recent years, Ms Ward and her husband Marcus have been active members of the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Action Group (MRSPAG), where Ms Ward volunteers as part of the peer support working group.

As well as providing suicide prevention ‘safeTALK’ training and mental health first aid courses, since 2014 the organisation has organised a walk on World Suicide Prevention Day for the community to participate in.

“The data showed at that time the number of suicides was going upwards rather than trending down,” Ms Ward said.

“We wanted an event that raises awareness and reduces stigma and you do that by getting people to participate.”

With COVID-19 restrictions currently in place, MRSPAG will be running a series of online workshops this week instead of their community walk, with a focus on self care and checking in on others.

On Friday, everyone is invited to light a candle in their home to commemorate those lost to to suicide.

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If you or anyone you know is in need of support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.