‘My sister Alisha took her own life in 2008, at age 27. She was a bright bubbly person and her death was a massive shock to her friends and family. Nine years later, I’m proud to be fronting the Support After Suicide Service (SAS) Geelong region. The service was formed after a need was seen for suicide specific bereavement support in the Geelong region. Loss as a result of suicide is a unique type of grieving process, there is another layer to the experience when faced with loss due to a sudden death and this is even more so with suicide’. We’re talking to Melinda Hopper, who has a background in mental health, the group’s newly appointed community development coordinator.
Photo: Annie (on the left) and Melinda
‘In October 2015 a meeting was called to address the gaps in suicide specific bereavement support in the Geelong Region. A committee of counselling professionals, community organisations and bereaved family members was appointed and later partnerships with Support After Suicide, Australia in Melbourne and Hope Bereavement Care were developed, to help get this new service off the ground.
‘We will be providing counselling and referral, secondary consultation, support groups, support literature, professional development training, health promotion and community education. We are a Not-for-Profit and receive no Government funding; a major part of our funding has come through the fundraising efforts of the Freemasons of the Bellarine Otway District for which we are extremely grateful. It’s great to see community organisations getting behind an important issue affecting people in the Geelong Region.
‘Our counsellor Annie Norrish has extensive expertise in grief, trauma and bereavement. She has worked with Support After Suicide Melbourne for a number of years and was also one of the key professionals involved in fronting the group that provide counselling support after the Black Saturday fires. Annie is pleased to see that those bereaved by suicide in the Geelong Region will no longer have to travel to Melbourne for suicide specific support.
‘We will also be running a Support After Suicide Loss Group that will run monthly where people can connect with others in a safe environment. Twice a year we will run a 4 week group for people who have been recently bereaved, to provide information about the experience of grief when a loved one has suicided and to develop resources to assist in the suicide bereavement journey. Our other aim is to provide training for private practitioners and health professionals about suicide specific bereavement.
‘We’ll also collaborate with other agencies in the region to work on suicide prevention initiatives. Suicide is a big issue within our society. It affects people from all walks of life and there are becoming more incidences among older people, particularly men. We want to increase awareness, reduce stigma and talk about what takes more lives than the road toll. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that in 2015 suicide was the leading cause of death in 15-44 year olds and the second in 44-54 age group. 75% of all suicides for that year were men. In total there were 3,027 deaths by suicide in Australia in 2015, or on average in excess of eight per day or one every three hours.
‘If you or anyone else would like to seek support, make a referral, find out more about the new Support After Suicide Geelong Service or make a donation, please contact us on 4215 3358.’