Health professionals and volunteers in the community have spoken with the News Weekly after it was discovered that four local people had taken their own life, in the last two weeks.
Merimbula clinical psychologist, Susanna Genot said that it was “way out of proportion” adding: “I think our area has higher than usual numbers of suicides.”
Deputy mayor, Liz Seckold and chairwoman of SPAN (Bega Valley Suicide Prevention Action Network) agreed and mentioned Bemboka in particular as having particularly high rates in recent years. SPAN was established in late 2010 and is made up of community members as well as service providers who work to reduce the impact of suicide in the Bega Valley.
One of the original members of SPAN was Maryanne Beggs, who has battled with her own mental health problems. Ms Beggs is bipolar and has been on medication for over 20 years but believes that timely access to medical help can be an issue.
Recently Ms Beggs was in need of help but it was a couple of weeks before she could see anyone. She said that the intervening period can be a critical delay. For Ms Beggs it was simply a case of adjusting her medication but that could only happen once she had seen a psychiatrist.
“These delays shouldn’t happen. When you lose control it does a lot of damage. I needed to see someone straightaway. I knew I needed to change my medication; mental health can’t wait,” Ms Beggs said.
Ms Genot said that increasing access to services would help and added that close relationships were important too.
“People worry about mentioning suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask whether they have thought about suicide. Sometimes it can be a relief for someone to be able to talk about it. If they say yes, listen and encourage them to seek professional advice,” she said.
The next SPAN meeting is at Club Bega, Thursday, May 19, 1-3pm and participation is welcomed. The network believes everyone in the community has a role to play in suicide prevention. For further details contact Liz Seckold on 0447 272 893 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See editorial page 9
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