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Woden Community Service helps suicide survivors find their way back

Lachlan Roberts 2 October 2019

Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard with Woden’s Way Back program manager Prue Gleeson. Photo: Supplied.

When someone tries to take their own life, they are often treated in hospital for their injuries but once they walk out the door, many are not offered the support they need to help them get their life back on track.

Data shows that around 20 per cent of people who attempt suicide will have a second attempt within three months of being discharged from hospital, but a Beyond Blue program run by Woden Community Service is designed to guide people safely through that critical period.

The Way Back program provides support for people who are recovering from a suicide attempt, meeting them in hospital before they’re discharged and assigning a support coordinator to help them get back on their feet.

The manager of Woden’s Way Back program, Prue Gleeson, said the three months of support provided by the program ensures people do not head back to the same situation that led to the attempt.

“The months after a suicide attempt is a high-risk time so the program is a way of mitigating the risk of further suicide attempts,” Ms Gleeson said. “The program makes sure they feel like they have support.”

Meeting them wherever they feel most comfortable, usually at home, the support coordinator helps the patient build a personalised safety plan, provides practical assistance, links them to community services and, if necessary, clinical care.

Since Canberra’s Way Back program began in November 2016, a total of 470 people have taken part in the support service.

“It is about respecting people’s own process,” Ms Gleeson shared. “It is a voluntary program so when people say ‘yes’ to the program, they are already motivated to change something about how they are living. We work with that motivation for change.

“Not everybody uses the whole three months of support, with the average being 60 days. Some people meet us once, others are a part of the program for a month, while a lot of people are involved in the program for 12 weeks.”

Ms Gleeson said prior to the Way Back trial program, people discharged from hospital would only receive two weeks of clinical support follow up, which sometimes would only be a phone call. Now three years after the trial began, the Federal Government has agreed to fund the rollout of the program across Australia.

“A lot of people haven’t received support so they head back to a situation where nothing has changed and there is no clear avenue of support,” she said. “Some people in the program tell us they have never experienced this type of support before.

“It as about providing humble, passionate, non-judgemental and dedicated care to any individual who walks through our doors. I believe this is a very significant and important part of our community support in the suicide prevention area,” Ms Gleeson said.

For more information about the Way Back program, contact the Woden Community Service on 02 6282 2644.

 If you are concerned for your safety or a loved one’s, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Headspace (for those aged 12 – 25) on 1800 650 890 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If someone is in immediate danger, call 000.


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