News travels fast in a small community.
When there is a death, but particularly in the case of suicide, news tends to travel rapidly through informal channels, explains Corryong Health chief executive officer Dom Sandilands.
And the ripple effects can reach deeply into a close-knit community.
The Upper Murray has known great loss in recent times.
The aftermath of the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires lingers ....
Devastatingly, a number of lives have been lost to suicide.
This has had a major impact on families, friends and those left behind, says Albury-Wodonga Health's (AWH) early intervention and capacity building manager Renee Murtagh.
The Upper Murray is mustering its resilience and resources against these crises.
"Suicide is an issue everywhere," Ms Murtagh acknowledges.
"In Corryong and the Upper Murray the community is grieving."
A comprehensive local response group (LRG) has been formed and is working to create an Upper Murray Suicide Postvention Plan.
The group, chaired by Corryong Health, includes representatives from emergency services, AWH, headspace, Standby, primary and secondary schools, major local employers and the Corryong Ministers Association.
The draft plan, "based on best practice research", will deliver a blueprint for providing a "co-ordinated and effective response to an event of death by suicide, suspected death by suicide and suicide attempts".
It has been developed "through an identified need based on community lived experience" and around the concept that "postvention is ultimately the act of prevention".
At its core the plan also aims "to improve community understanding and capacity to minimise the risk of social transmission of suicidal behaviour following a suicide event".
The plan recognises the people and communities supported through postvention are not only bereaved families and friends, "but all those whose life is changed because of the loss".
It can include witnesses, first responders, healthcare providers, members of sporting clubs, schools, community groups and workplaces.
"The strong community and social networks in rural areas lead to people more likely knowing one another or being acquainted and connected in some way," the plan states.
"These overlapping networks can be helpful as people reach out to one another for support, but also challenging as it may mean a higher percentage of people ... are affected more deeply than in larger, lesser connected communities."
The 21-page document is extensive ... and it needs to be.
"Above all, we do not want to cause further harm," Mr Sandilands insists.
"(But) the community has made the call for a concerted campaign.
"We have been overwhelmed by the response from local services and organisations wanting to take steps to really come together with a focus on preventing suicide.
"The community wants action - that's clear; but we need to ensure information and advice is co-ordinated at a level that is best practice, is of value and is digestible for the community."
Earlier this month several community meetings were held at Corryong to offer support for those affected by suicide.
Clinical psychologist Dr Rob Gordon, an expert in recovery from traumatic incidents, addressed parents, teachers and the broader community in separate sessions on May 19 and 20.
Dr Gordon talked about both individual and community trauma response.
"It's a compounding trauma the community is experiencing - whether that's bushfires or suicide," Mr Sandilands says.
"Rob explained the anxiety is at a community level and, like COVID, it's a spreadable thing.
"Anxiety comes about from the perception of threat and what arises for you as an individual can add further complexity to a suicide event."
Dr Gordon provided practical strategies, for specific groups, on how to respond pro-actively to protect yourself and others.
"He talked about how your body and brain might respond to trauma ... and that this is a normal human response," Mr Sandilands says.
"At a community level he talked about what we can do to help each other to understand what's going on in their body or with their thinking."
At the heart of the messaging is no one should feel alone.
"And if you are having a hard time, talk to somebody ... talk to anybody," Ms Murtagh urges.
The Upper Murray suicide postvention plan is based on successful models in Victoria and across Australia.
Drafting a plan such as this with an opportunity for community feedback and a period of consultation is essential to ensuring community safety and acceptance, Mr Sandilands says.
Ms Murtagh explains the purpose of a plan is to provide a concrete co-ordination response and avoid knee-jerk reactions immediately following a suicide event.
"Grief can impact during crisis; we want to ensure we're on the front foot to provide an immediate response to those urgent needs in the first 0 to 24 hours and in the next 24 to 72 hours.
"It's a risk management situation; a lot depends on the wishes of the family and who is directly affected in terms of providing those immediate supports.
"But then we need to look at the broader response and community recovery."
The anxiety is at a community level and, like COVID, it's a spreadable thing .... the community has made the call for a concerted campaign.Dominic Sandlilands
Postvention is absolutely part of a prevention plan.
"Longer term, we need to help develop community capacity to recognise the warning signs and to build resilience within the various groups," Mr Sandilands says.
"It's a whole of community strategy - from sporting clubs to schools, employers, faith-based and community groups to health care and other service providers."
Suicide is complex.
It spans generations, genders and cultures.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
"The solution is the whole community coming together," Mr Sandilands says.
"The solutions lie in our community - we need to build on its strengths to prevent a further loss of lives."
Local community Facebook groups at Corryong have been supportive of the Corryong Health initiatives and draft suicide postvention plan.
On Wednesday the Corryong Community Recovery Committee Facebook page shared a timely post from 'The Unbreakable Farmer' (aka Warren Davies) as another Victorian lockdown loomed.
With the hashtag #not2TUF2speakup, Davies urged people to speak up and to support each other.
"We are all in the same boat, but potentially facing quite different storms," he wrote.
"It takes courage to reach out and seek help and it also takes courage to reach out to someone going through challenges."
- The Upper Murray Suicide Postvention Draft Plan is open for feedback: contact community services director Vicki Pitcher at email@example.com
WHERE TO GO TO GET HELP
If you or someone you know needs help please contact:
- Mental Health Triage 1300 104 211
- Mental Health Rural Outreach Service (03) 5722 2677
- Corryong Health (02) 6076 3200
NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SUPPORT
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- beyondblue: 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Go to www.corryonghealth.com.au for details of the draft Upper Murray Suicide Postvention Plan