On 31 July, Julian Leeser MP, federal Member for Berowra, hosted a Lifeline training session for community leaders from across his electorate in Northern Sydney. More than 170 people participated, representing around 100 local community organisations. Participants included representatives from local sports clubs, churches, schools, Parents and Citizens groups, Rotary, Lions, Toastmasters, the Scouts and other civic groups in the area. The session was held at the Hornsby RSL.

“Since I was elected in 2016, I have placed suicide prevention at the front and centre of what I hope to achieve as a Parliamentarian,” said Mr Leeser, who lost his own father to suicide.

“In the past decade, 109 people in Berowra have died by suicide. Building close-knit, resilient local communities is a critical response to this crisis. “

“My goal is to make Berowra a ‘suicide-safe’ community. My first step is to partner with local community groups and to build up the skills of recognising when people are in crisis and how we, as individuals, can help them.”

Mr Leeser directly challenged participants to undertake Lifeline’s Accidental Counsellor Program within their organisations. More than 15 organisations took a pledge to do so on the night, with many more expressing an interest.

“I am immensely buoyed by our community’s support for taking decisive action on suicide prevention,” said Mr Leeser.

“Berowra is leading the country on suicide prevention. I intend to challenge my parliamentary colleagues to mobilise their electorates to undertake a similar program. Together, we can make a difference.”

Ms Wendy Carver, CEO of Lifeline Hills to Hawkesbury, said that she was excited by the innovation of Mr Leeser’s community forum.

“I am moved by the amazing groundswell of community support and interest in tackling the challenge of suicide that this forum has generated. Bringing together all these groups has never been done before. I want to thank Julian for this trailblazing initiative that we think will have important ramifications. We at Lifeline feel very fortunate to have his support and enthusiasm.”

Mr Ted Nabung, Principal of Hornsby Ku-Ring-Gai Community College, said that he was struck by how confronting asking friends and family about suicide could be.

“The program tonight really hit home with me,” said Mr Nabung.

“When we dare to ask someone if he or she is contemplating suicide, we’re faced with the problem of being awkward or even the question of compromising your friendship. This is a risk, but what I got out of the night is that this is a risk worth taking.”

Ms Cutty Felton from Lifeline delivered Lifeline’s Dare to Ask program. Participants learned:

• How to recognise potential signs that another might be thinking about taking his or her life

• How to ask about the question and respond to someone’s answer using the skills of empathy

• That we are never responsible for the decisions that others might make, but we can make a significant difference by having the courage to start the conversation and the knowledge of where to access help

• The necessity to prioritise self-care as Daring to Ask another who is struggling can be highly confronting.