• Hannah Phillips

Conversations Matter in the Coorong

‘Conversations Matter’ more than ever in Flow's Coorong region, with a $20,000 grant from SA Health for the district’s Suicide Prevention Network (SPN) to bolster the growing mental health program.

The Coorong District Council is taking a proactive approach to mental health awareness and community mobilisation on the issue, after witnessing the devastating impacts of suicide on the region.

Seven suicides occurred in the Tailem Bend community in recent years, with the Council helping to form the Coorong Conversations Matter SPN in 2016.

Since then, it has grown in stature, and now consists of a further three sub-networks known as: Conversations Matter Parks, Conversations Matter Mallee and Conversations Matter Lakes.

Funding from SA Health will allow all of these groups to grow their presence, ensuring a range of projects and programs continue to build awareness and access for people across the greater Coorong district.

Coorong Conversations Matter SPN Chair Julie Barrie said the grant funding would make a huge impact to the efforts of the committee and its volunteers.

“Even in its infancy, our Conversations Matter program has already started to open up the local dialogue on mental health and suicide in our district.

“We know rural men are in the significant suicide risk category, and this demographic makes up one of our biggest population groups here in the Coorong.

“We want to ensure through the Coorong SPN - and its subsequent ripple effects - that more people in our community have awareness of the issues, know how to help someone if they’re in trouble and also build better access to services for people with mental health battles.

“There’s a lot of work to do, but with this funding our group of local volunteers can hit the ground running in the coming months," she said.

A range of proposed programs are already in place for the funding, including (but not limited to): community education sessions, sporting club mental health training, improving information packs, a public awareness campaign, artwork programs, events, a commemorative garden and more.

Each committee will decide on how the money is spent.

One project already earmarked to receive some of the funding is Long Story Short, a creative strategy acknowledging the fact that our rural men connect with each other by sharing stories.

Helping lead this project is Council’s Director Community and Corporate Nat Traeger, who is also a passionate member of the Coorong Conversations Matter SPN Committee.

“Connecting people with one another through local stories helps to overcome isolation, and we’re using this idea to develop a creative program for local people to be a part of,” Ms Trager says.

“Long Story Short is our answer, and rural men are helping to lead it.

“What we’re proposing to do (with the help of expert story teller Mark Thomson) is use the emerging technology of podcasting, with public artworks to broadcast local stories.

“This will provide our community and its visitors with an authentic experience – reminding everyone that our land is rich with stories, and offering local pride in this fact.

“Our Creating Coonalpyn project proved that creative ideas, linked with strong leadership can help transform communities and peoples’ lives – and we’re hoping Long Story Short will have a similar impact.”

To read more about some of the initiatives already underway through the Coorong Conversations Matter SPN, visit the Council website.

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