Keeping people safe

Anglicare Tasmania’s Attempted Suicide Aftercare Program (ASAP) provides support to Tasmanians who have recently attempted suicide and to their family members and friends.

Senior Practice Advisor Ben McGregor explains that the program’s focus is on keeping people safe and making sure they have wrap-around support that is tailored to their specific needs.

“Our program saves lives, because it helps people recover and opens up new options,” Ben says.  “As we head towards World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday 10 September, we want to let people know that they are not alone and that support is at hand.”

Suicide was the leading cause of death for Australians in the 15 – 44 age group in 2018.

A white paper from Suicide Prevention Australia published in June  highlights the additional risks for suicide that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.

The paper, Reducing stress in the community following the COVID- 19 pandemic, lists homelessness, a home environment that includes family violence and the never-ending news cycle as leading risk factors for an increase in suicides. Social isolation and substance abuse are other risk factors.

These findings reflect the Tasmanian experience, says Ben McGregor.

“When the pandemic broke out in Tasmania, Anglicare continued its face-to-face services, including to people impacted by attempted suicide,” he said. “But not every organisation was in this fortunate position. This led to an overall decline in access to support services at a time when the pressures of daily living rose sharply and suddenly. This is likely to be a contributing factor in the increase in the number of people presenting to Tasmanian hospital emergency departments following a suicide attempt.”

The Royal Hobart Hospital is taking part in a Trans-Tasman project investigating the growing number of children and adolescents presenting to emergency departments with mental health concerns.   “The Kids Are Not Okay” study will look at the risk factors associated with these presentations and how young people can be better supported both in the hospital setting and on return to the community.

The Mental Health Council of Tasmania, of which Anglicare Tasmania is a member, reports a general increase in new referrals to mental health supports, with younger people being most vulnerable.

Personal experience

As a teenager, Ben was deeply affected by the deaths by suicide of two young cousins. He attributes his choice of career to this lived experience. He was exposed again to the devastating effects of suicide while working as a social worker in Scottsdale during a period of heavy job losses in the local logging industry.

“I would encourage everyone to stay alert to the warning signs that someone they know is having suicidal thoughts,” he says. “September 10 is also R U OK? Day, so it’s a timely reminder to reach out and start a conversation, even if it’s confronting.

“This kind of support could become more important than ever when the JobKeeper payment is rolled back and people become more vulnerable to housing and financial instability, and family relationships come under additional strain,” said Ben.

How to contact ASAP

ASAP operates out of Burnie, Launceston and Hobart, and incorporates face-to-face support over a six-month period. The emphasis is on building social supports and re-establishing connections, and safety planning.

You or your family member may be referred by your health practitioner or you can contact us directly on 1800 243 232.

Crisis support

In an emergency, you should always contact 000. If it is not an emergency, the following organisations provide crisis support:

The following organisations also have some fantastic resources:
  • R U OK? – including resources for R U OK? Day, September 10
  • The Black Dog Institute is also running a campaign in September inviting people to grow a mullet to help grow mental health research!
  • SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY is a Tasmanian organisation working hard to reduce the stigma associated with suicide and encouraging people to seek help.

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