Training By Location

Keynote showcases training first responders at scale in suicide intervention skills

1 MARCH, 2023: The statistics are well-known: Police, paramedics and firefighters are at a higher risk of dying by suicide than the average Australian. This is a large scale problem, so what is a large scale solution?

LivingWorks Australia’s lead suicide intervention skills trainer, Belinda Connell, is presenting a keynote at the Frontline Mental Health Conference (March 6-7) on the organisation’s current state-wide training rollout with NSW Police, their history training first responders and this year’s 40 year milestone of LivingWorks ASIST.

Belinda has been leading the LivingWorks ASIST training rollout with NSW Police and was a police officer herself until 2003. Since leaving the force, Belinda has been teaching workforces and communities the skills to help keep one another safe from suicide.

“It’s all about connection and people believing they can and do have the skills to reach in and help someone who they can see is not ok,” Belinda said.

“When you’re exposed to traumatic events over time, like for first responders, there’s a build-up and you’ll need to have ways to take care of yourself. Sometimes when you’re struggling you don’t see the signs in yourself, but the person you’re on a 12-hour shift with could. In fact it is the people around us – our mates, buddies, colleagues – who are more likely to first recognise when someone starts to struggle. And we need to have the skills and confidence to start that conversation.

Belinda, pictured left and her father, who was also a first responder, pictured right.

“Our current LivingWorks ASIST state-wide training to NSW Police is for all ranks and all areas of the state – from radio operators to forensics, welfare managers to commanders. It’s a huge commitment and the feedback has been outstanding,” she said.

Belinda comes from a family of first responders; her dad was a firefighter for 32 years and of his three children, two were police officers and the third married a paramedic.

“My dad was a firey and I saw his generation struggle, there was much less conversation about mental health. Things have come a long way and praise is due to NSW Police to be the first to roll out this type of training at scale for peers to support one another,” Belinda said.

“We know there is a gap between awareness when someone isn’t ok, and that person getting to a professional to seek help. The resources needed to make that connection are simple: it’s the people around us. For a lot of first responders, it can be difficult to just ‘put your hand up’ – it may mean that they have to step back from operational duties.

“We do know that first responders want to help each other. So we need a shift in thinking away from telling people to reach out for help, to training everyone in the skills to reach in,” she said.

LivingWorks is the major sponsor of the 2023 Frontline Mental Health Conference and has developed strong working partnerships with first responders in each state and territory.

“LivingWorks has a proud track record of working with first responders across the country, currently training 000 operators, CFS, state fire services, ambulance, prison officers, Defence and other police services. We also have a partnership with Fortem who provide evidence-based, comprehensive, and integrated wellbeing support – including LivingWorks programs – to first responders and their families,” LivingWorks Australia CEO, Shayne Connell said.

LivingWorks Australia will have a booth at the Frontline Mental Health Conference March 6-7, welcoming conversations, connections and enquiries. Belinda Connell’s keynote presentation is scheduled for day two of the conference.

Read more about our work with First Responders on our First Responders webpage.

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