Jewish suicide prevention strategy launched

Tackling suicide: the launch of the Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy project on Sunday, September 10.

IN response to a number of suicides within the Jewish community, JewishCare has launched the first ever Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy project.

Over a two-year time frame, the project will roll out mental health first aid and suicide prevention training to organisations and general community members, facilitate events and presentations, and grow a network to champion the message of suicide prevention and awareness.

The project will also strengthen partnerships and create an integrated and coordinated response to suicide through culturally appropriate resources.

Importantly, the initiative will educate the community in factors related to suicidal behaviour and teach community members that it’s OK to talk about suicide and how to access available resources.

Federal Member for Berowra Julian Leeser, whose father took his own life 21 years ago, spoke at the launch of the project at the Eastern Sydney Suicide Prevention Network walk in Rose Bay last Sunday.

“It is very important for Jews to play a leading role in suicide prevention,” Leeser told The AJN.

“Life is central to the conception of Judaism. The book of Devarim exhorts us to ‘choose life’ and the Talmud teaches us that we have a responsibility to save the lives of others; that ‘whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world’.”

Driving the strategy will be JewishCare’s mental health and wellbeing program team, which includes a newly engaged suicide prevention coordinator.

The chair of the steering committee, Isabelle Shapiro, told The AJN, “There is nothing more important than saving a life.”

She hopes suicide will be “more easily spoken about, that the signs are recognised, and people are able to make appropriate referrals”.

The committee consists of members from Jewish-specific emergency and community service organisations, schools, health professionals and rabbis.
The project is being supported by funding from JCA.

Dianne Gaddin, whose daughter Tracy took her own life in 2005, welcomed the initiative.

“It only takes one minute to respond to someone who is struggling. One minute, one word of kindness can make a difference to the person,” she told The AJN.

Gaddin noted that although suicide is less of a taboo subject than what it used to be, people going through a tough time need to “stop feeling ashamed”.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s no reflection on the kind of person you are,” she said.

“I have attempted to take my own life. I’m not ashamed, I talk about it. It can happen to anybody. It’s important that we are all alert and aware.”

EVAN ZLATKIS