Mind the GAP

Community Linkers tackle suicide in Shoalhaven’s Indigenous communities

Community Linkers tackle suicide in Shoalhaven’s Indigenous communities

UOW's MIND the GaP and South Coast AMS provide essential training to reduce suicide rate

Even one suicide is one too many. For the family, friends and community left behind, it is a devastating and often unexpected loss. But talking about suicide can be deeply painful and complex. This issue can be compounded in Indigenous communities, where cultural sensitivity and awareness are fundamental to breaking down barriers and providing support.

The University of Wollongong’s MIND the GaP initiative, based at Shoalhaven Campus, has partnered with the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (AMS) to develop and provide culturally tailored suicide prevention training to the region’s Aboriginal communities.

Known as Community Linkers, the project aims to reduce suicide by bridging the gap between at-risk community members and professional services.

The project is training Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organisations providing services to Shoalhaven’s Aboriginal communities in how to recognise at-risk behaviour and help those in need to easily and readily access support services.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is significantly higher than among non-Indigenous Australians.

With workshops held monthly, training is free for participants and is delivered by Indigenous facilitators. The goal is to train 200 Community Linkers by the end of the year.

On the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Linker training has the capacity now to be delivered online, allowing greater access to the training.   

Participants of the Community Linkers training display their certificates. Photo: Submitted

Partipants of the Community Linkers training display their certificates after completing the course. Photo: Submitted

Glenn Williams, Project Manager of MIND the GaP at UOW, said the team were proud of the work they were doing to address this significant public health need.

“With the project facilitator and support staff being Aboriginal community members, all are personally invested in the development of the skillset within the community to assist in recognising the signs of distress and directing individuals to appropriate services,” Mr Williams said.

“The benefit of this project is that it has the potential to reduce suicides.”

The Community Linkers project is part of the Towards Zero Suicides campaign, an initiative of the NSW Government launched in 2019 that aims to reduce the state suicide rate by 20 per cent by 2023.

Data from the project will also be used to inform research, which will examine the effectiveness of culturally tailored suicide prevention training. Participants are provided with the opportunity to evaluate and provide feedback on the training they receive.

It is anticipated that the evaluation will inform future development and increase the effectiveness of suicide prevention programs for Aboriginal communities more broadly, contributing to the prevention of suicide amongst Aboriginal people.

For more information or to become involved in the Community Linkers project, contact Jessie Regan, Community Linker Training Coordinator and Outreach Officer at MIND the GaP on community-linkers@uow.edu.au or +61 2 4429 1599.

If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide, contact

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

If you are bereaved by suicide, contact

  • Standby Support After Suicide – 1300 727 247