New support service for people who have attempted suicide in Casey

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Way Back Support Service, a Beyond Blue suicide prevention program that delivers personalised support to people who have tried to take their own lives, is to launch in Casey Hospital’s emergency department.

Funded by the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network – and delivered by Neami National – The Way Back Support Service is for people discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt. 

Evidence shows 15 to 25 per cent of those who attempt suicide will try again in the three months following discharge from hospital. The Way Back Support Service is designed to guide such people safely through this critical period. 

With Casey Hospital experiencing one presentation a day relating to suicide, the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network has partnered with Beyond Blue to fund and oversee the service.

South Eastern Melbourne PHN’s Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Deveny, said:

“There is growing evidence that services such as The Way Back can greatly improve recovery from suicide attempts.” 

“When a person leaves hospital after a suicide attempt, they’re often going back to the same environment they were in before, this service supports them to make positive changes so they can feel a sense of hope,” she said.

People referred from Casey Hospital to The Way Back Support Service will be assigned a Support Coordinator who will help them build a personalised safety plan, provide practical assistance, link them to community services and, if necessary, clinical care.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the service has been implemented into a number of hospitals across the country, and is helping people to get back on track.

“Nationally more than half those discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt receive no support or follow‐up treatment and The Way Back Support Service fills that gap.

“But it isn’t a medical intervention. It’s about getting practical help and information into the hands of the people who need it. It’s about equipping them with the right resources and supporting them to find their way back.” 

Support coordinators from Neami National will motivate, encourage and talk to participants. They work to reduce future suicide attempts by providing understanding, connection and hope.

Key information

    • SEMPHN and Beyond Blue have partnered to commission and oversee the establishment and delivery of The Way Back Support Service
    • The service will be deliver by Neami National, a community-based mental health services that support people to improve their wellbeing, live independently and pursue a fulfilling life.
    • Clients are referred to the service from Casey Hospital, Monash Health.
    • The service is delivered across Casey. The need for additional funding and in the Casey community was highlighted in the SEMPHN’s needs report in 2016.

Luke’s story

Imagine lying on a hospital gurney in a hallway, waiting to be seen after you’ve hit rock bottom, only to be sent back into the society you no longer want to be part of with no help or follow-up care.

This was Luke Richard’s reality six years ago, but, thanks to a close mate who never gave up on him, the Sandringham local was able to finally break through a 20-year battle with depression, drugs and alcohol, which resulted in a number of suicide attempts.

For many South Eastern Melbournians, crucial support following a suicide attempt has been limited.

The Way Back program is launching in Casey Hospital’s emergency department for those who have attempted, or are at risk of, suicide and will support people for the three months after they’ve attempted suicide. This is when they are most at risk of dying by suicide.

Monash Health reports that one person every day presents to Casey’s emergency department with suicidal thoughts or an attempt.

Luke first attempted suicide at the age of 11 after constant bullying and a strained relationship with his father, and stepfather, led to depression, and, as he says, a ‘hole in his heart.’

“In the 1980s, mental illness, especially in children, wasn’t talked about, and for the next 20-plus years I would fill those holes with drugs and alcohol,” he said.

A constant cloud of not wanting to be here anymore never lifted, and multiple suicide attempts ensued.

“I was in unbearable pain, I always used something to mask what I was feeling. For a while it seemed pretty harmless, even though it was not. Slowly, my life began to revolve around the drugs.”

“By the age of 38, I replaced drugs with alcohol because I thought it was a safer option. I was a daily top-up drunk, who just managed to hold down my job. I was drinking at least a litre of liquor a day, waking at 3am to start drinking, and would sneak a small bottle of vodka to work. The physical effects were beginning to show – my hands would shake, I was nauseous all the time, and I could barely hold a utensil,” he said.

It was through coincidence, or perhaps a guardian angel, that his friend, Matt, would show up every time Luke was in trouble.

The pivotal turning point came in 2012 when he attempted suicide again, and it was through sheer coincidence that Matt showed up unexpectedly and saved his life.

After many attempts to get sober, Luke finally broke through the wall of what’s actually required to get there – he actually wanted to do it.

“I had finally hit rock bottom, I was $150k in debt yet the universe was telling me I was meant to be here,” he said.

After getting the right treatment and support, Luke is now sober and the proud father of two children, he is happily married and has found a new passion in life – swimming, which he attributes as a big part of keeping on top of his mental health.

Luke is now sharing his own experiences to help others, and has shared his advice with Beyond Blue and SEMPHN to help get The Way Back into the region.

“My experiences have stuck with me and I know recovery is possible. I wanted to contribute to a better process and I want to make sure as many people as possible get the help they need at that critical time,” he said.

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