WINTER SOLSTICE: Halve suicide rate, pleads GP | PICTURES

A SPEAKER at the Border’s second Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide night has thrown his support behind a national bid to halve the number of suicides.

But Dr Graham Fleming, a GP from Tumby Bay in South Australia, challenged the Border community to reduce the incidence of suicide by half within 12 months instead of the decade offered as an alternative by 20 groups to meet in Sydney tomorrow.

Dr Fleming, who developed a program in the late 1980s to reduce the youth suicide rate in his community, said schools, community groups and health professionals must work together to address suicide prevention.

“Most suicides are preventable,” he said.

“We need to get help for these people straight away and recognise their underlying mental illness.

“They have the delusion that suicide is their best or their only option but suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem.”

Figures cited at the event suggest there were 2535 suicides a year in Australia, about twice the road death toll last year.

Dr Fleming echoed an earlier call by Alison Fairleigh that “each and every person in the community” had a responsibility to recognise the signs exhibited by those contemplating suicide and offer their support.

Ms Fairleigh became an advocate for rural mental health after three men in her northern Queensland community took their own lives.

She began as a volunteer with a local program that helped educate people on recognising the signs of suicide.

Later she developed a training program in farmer and mental health to make it easier for farmers and those living in rural communities to access health and mental health services.

“This is not one person’s load to carry,” she said.

Ms Fairleigh described the Winter Solstice event on Saturday night at The Cube in Wodonga as a “wonderful event that was about support, reaching out and acknowledging loss”.

“But we can always do more and I hope this will inspire you to go further,” she told an audience of several hundred people.

They gathered at an outdoor stage, fires and a tree upon which they were invited to share their stories on cardboard labels and light candles for loved ones lost.

Organiser Stuart Baker said he and his wife Annette were pleased with the response to the event.

“There is a whole-of-community responsibility to helping each other in every facet of community life,” he said.

“We need everyone working together and looking out for their neighbours.

“We want to continue to reach out to those who don’t always get the chance to share their load.”

Director of the Bereaved by Suicide Centre for Intense Grief in Sydney, Dr Diana Sands, shared her work with children bereaved by suicide that has in turn become a book and DVD offering practical ways to help young people.

The successful evening in Wodonga was completed with music from Richard Perso, Korey Livy and Catherine Britt and performances from the Catholic College choir, Vital Voices Albury Wodonga women’s choir and the DMB Dance and Performing Arts Centre.

Members of mental health and suicide prevention support networks will meet at the Lived Experience Symposium in Sydney tomorrow to consider a recommendation on reducing suicide numbers.