Country SA Standby

OUTREACH: Jen Snook and Stuie Steele promote Standby, a state-based service which provides support after suicide.
OUTREACH: Jen Snook and Stuie Steele promote Standby, a state-based service which provides support after suicide.

A state-based service which assists people to cope with the loss of a loved one to suicide is working hard behind the scenes to be recognised in the region. 

Known as ‘Standby’, the outreach suicide service has teamed up with Gawler Suicide Prevention Community Group to provide a stronger presence.

Together, the groups’ key aims are to lift the stigma associated with suicide and support anyone who is feeling lonely, abandoned or vulnerable.

Standby’s co-ordinator for Country North SA Jen Snook said for those affected by suicide, the risk of suicide can be up to eight times higher than the general population.

According to GSPCG volunteer Stuie Steele, the need to link with the state government funded group was highlighted when the Gawler group noticed a gap in support services following a suicide.

“Some of the feedback received was it can be difficult, especially for rural people, to find services or it took awhile for them to find Standby,” he said.

”We want to make it more easy for these people.”

Now in its fourth year, Standby helps anyone who has been bereaved or impacted by suicide, including individuals, witnesses, schools, workplaces, first respondent, services providers and community groups.

Ms Snook, who is located in Port Lincoln, is part of an SA team made up of about 15 professionals, including Country South SA co-ordinator Tracy Wanganeen, based at Mount Gambier.

Ms Snook explained the service ws offered as a free crises response, operating 24/7 by phone.

“Generally when there’s a death. people gather around and offer support, but with suicide often people feel abandoned.

“And this can be for a number of reasons, but especially because people don’t know what to say.”

Following an initial phone call, Standby organises a face-to-face meeting, generally in someone’s home or a space they feel most comfortable.

It can be anyone who phones up such as family, friends, SAPOL, school, workplace or nurses.

“We listen to begin with because we want to hear their story and make it easy for them to talk about suicide.

“It’s totally confidential and the big thing is we listen to work to find services locally that support the person or family” she said. 

Meetings come with no time constraints because Standby recognise everyone’s situation is unique.

For Mr Steele, the Gawler group readily welcomed Standby because of “its comprehensive approach and real duty of care about it”.

GSPCG, established in 2013, is an outreach avenue for people, including family and friends, who find themselves involved in mental health situations.   

While the Gawler group works with well-known organisations like Beyond Blue in prevention and signs to look for, Standby was the first group that approached them that caters for the after affect of suicide. 

Both Ms Snook and Mr Steele said the groups’ focus is ‘post-vention is prevention’.

Their push stems from data which reveals, three out of four suicides are men, with eight Australians taking their lives daily. 

“So it’s important we follow up with phone calls within the week, three months and 12 months later,” Ms Snook said.

“And it’s important people know they can phone us whether it be the day of the suicide, the day after or 25 years down the track.”

And both said the public don’t have to be a professional to assist others.

“The ideal thing is to acknowledge someone suffering and say, ‘I don’t know what to say, but I am hear to listen’. Something as simple as that can be comforting,” Ms Snook said.

Standby is one of the biggest SA groups to assist the Gawler group, yet strong support is also provided by Light MP Tony Piccolo, Town of Gawler Council and the media.

Meanwhile, a survey organised by the Gawler Suicide Prevention Community Group and promoted by the Barossa Herald in May received an overwhelming 253 online responses and a handful of paper responses.

Mr Steele said the group is currently collating the information to identify what areas need to be further addressed for support. 

“We have done some basic summaries and we will also do a demographic evaluation,” he said.

The Gawler group will also be on hand to share information with the public during this year’s Gawler Show at the end of August.

Standby can be accessed by phoning 0438 728 644 in the north and 0437 752 458 in the south.