Thinking differently about suicide prevention


Creating a more compassionate society by thinking differently about suicide prevention is one of the motivations behind this health worker’s mission to improve suicide prevention services, especially in regional areas. 

Jo Riley, Suicide Prevention Program Manager for COORDINARE - South Eastern NSW PHN and Executive Member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven and the Bega Valley Eurobodalla Suicide Prevention Collaboratives, has worked for more than a decade in the suicide prevention space. 

One of the key challenges of working in a regional area is retaining and supporting a workforce through the emotional impact of working in suicide prevention. 

“This is especially true for people who end up providing the support when people are in crisis or going through multiple crises,” Ms Riley said. 

“It can be exhausting for those providing support, so we must consider how people can maintain their own wellbeing or keep their own cup full while caring for and supporting others. 

SafeSide Prevention's Prof Tony Pisani, Jo Riley from COORDINARE - South Eastern NSW PHN and Antonia Ravesi from NADA.

“Another challenge for regional and rural workforces is that we are thinly spread, so people need to travel far distances to either receive or provide support.” 

A hurdle the suicide prevention sector is grappling with is providing care while acknowledging and dealing with other stressors. 

“The diversity, breadth, and depth of stakeholders is enormous, and it’s constant work to bring services and supports together to collaborate so we can effectively provide support to those who need it.” 

This need inspired the development of the SafeSide Framework for Suicide Prevention – Alcohol and Other Drugs.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative (the Collaborative) partnered with SafeSide Prevention with funding from COORDINARE to develop this project and provide customised training for people with co-occurring suicidality and alcohol and drug use

And with both her roles, Ms Riley was heavily involved throughout the project. 

“This is the first project that I'm aware of in Australia, that has, in such a focused way, provided the suicide prevention upskilling desperately needed by the AOD workforce,” she said. 

“But, it really had to be done, and it’s a huge step forward in getting things right.” 

But it’s not just a career choice as Ms Riley, like many others, has experienced the heartache of suicide in her own life. 

“I know from the inside how you feel and how much needs to be done,” she said. 

“On a wider scale, society isn't quite getting it right and our suicide rates reflect this. I think we need to be trying to create a society that is more caring, compassionate, inclusive, and equitable,” she said.

“We need to try to think differently about suicide prevention and make sure we utilise our efforts and our resources to have the greatest impact, and that more often than not is about working together.”  

SafeSide Prevention is a major sponsor as of the 2024 National Suicide Prevention Conference facilitated by Suicide Prevention Australia.

Throughout the event our team will be bringing you updates and insights throughout the week of the Conference.

Acknowledgement of Country
SafeSide Prevention acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work. We recognise and respect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of this country. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Acknowledgement of Lived Experience
We acknowledge the lived experience of those with suicide and mental illness, their families and carers. Their preferences, wishes, needs, and aspirations are at the heart of all the work we do.

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