‘The power of community’

Claire Gil-Munoz (centre) and Isabelle Shapiro (right) accepting the award from Cathy Tobin at the National Suicide Prevention Conference on July 23. Photo: Raimond Aide

IN 2017, 20 communal organisations came together to form NSW’s first ever Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy (JSPS), in response to a number of suicides within the Jewish community.

The organisations – led by JewishCare – acknowledged that suicide prevention is a community-wide issue, and hoped the initiative would raise awareness, educate and empower the community, so that suicide is more easily spoken about, and that the signs are recognised.

Last week, the JSPS received a prestigious national award for its work – winning the Communities Matter category in the 2019 LiFE Awards at the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Melbourne.

The award, which recognises excellence in suicide prevention, was no easy feat.

Lifeline Australia was also a finalist, but ultimately the judges felt JSPS showed an “exceptional demonstration of leadership, collaboration and innovation, setting a powerful example for other community organisations”, Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray remarked.

Murray sent her “heartfelt congratulations” to the team, including JSPS chairperson Isabelle Shapiro, and Claire Gil-Munoz, manager of JewishCare’s mental health and wellbeing program, who travelled to Melbourne to accept the award.

“We were honoured to receive this LiFE Award,” Shapiro told The AJN this week.

“This prestigious award is a recognition of the importance of Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy’s community-wide approach. It is acknowledged as a culturally specific suicide prevention model which can be adapted by other communities.”

Shapiro said that since its inception, JSPS has trained more than 300 community members in mental health first aid or suicide prevention, and “will continue with that training which educates, raises awareness, and empowers members of our community”. 

Other accomplishments include: a monthly support group for people impacted by suicide and ongoing engagement with numerous schools, synagogues, rabbis and other community groups and local councils.

It has also developed an aftercare prevention program in conjunction with public and private mental health facilities, and is in the process of developing an app which can be used by people at risk.

Federal MP Julian Leeser, whose father took his own life, has been a supporter of the JSPS since its launch two years ago.

“The Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy is ground-breaking,” Leeser told The AJN.

“It is wonderful to see a community-tailored initiative receive the recognition it deserves.”

Member for Wentworth Dave Sharma echoed the sentiment, noting also that the JSPS is at the “forefront of providing critical frontline services for our most vulnerable”.

“This achievement is a reflection of their dedicated leadership in tackling suicide prevention and crisis care within our community,” Sharma told The AJN.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger commented, “The Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy is a practical demonstration of the power of community organisations and members coming together for a vital cause. 

“We congratulate Isabelle Shapiro and all involved for driving this all-important endeavour and salute the JSPS on this prestigious recognition.”

Acting CEO of JCA Alain Hasson said the organisation, through the auspices of the JCA Haberman, Kulawicz & Wolanski Fund, is “proud to be able to help fund this important initiative”.

Describing the award as “well-deserved recognition”, Hasson reflected, “The coordinated approach of the Jewish Suicide Prevention Strategy is a significant and meaningful example of community support coming together to address a critical issue that can affect us all.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14.