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Rural community set to offer support for those who need it in state-first

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Kenilworth is set to be the site of a Queensland-first community-led safe space for people in emotional distress.

The project is being driven by a group of like-minded locals, supported by a community development worker, and will be run under the guidance of Roses in the Ocean, a lived experience suicide organisation.

A working group comprising about six locals has been formed to see the project through and is backed by a wider collective of about 20 people.

A meeting was held this month to explain the concept to interested locals.

Suzie Wong, who is part of the working group, said they were scouting for a suitable location for the space, which could be a cafe, a room in a business, a community facility or even a caravan.

She said that the safe space was not intended to be a crisis centre and instead would be a community-driven place where people could have a chat, a coffee and feel supported.

Supportive relationships can make a big difference. Picture: Shutterstock

“It’s people getting together to support each other. I think that one of the things that’s been lost is the opportunity to feel support when things aren’t going very well,” she said.

“People often pull together for horrible events but leave a hole in between, and if the life events don’t come around very often, and they get further apart as you get older, you don’t have that opportunity to get to community.”

The safe space would be staffed by volunteers who have lived experience of suicide and who have had some training from Roses in the Ocean in suicide prevention.

Roses in the Ocean’s head of community-led safe spaces Tony Martin said there were about 15 similar safe spaces operating around Australia.

“The core of what we do is non-clinical suicide support, which has been identified as a very, very effective form of care, and community-driven by people who have lived experience of suicide,” he said.

“That could be somebody who has had a suicide attempt or thought about suicide, someone who has experience caring for someone who is suicidal, or someone bereaved by suicide.

“That’s important because you’re able to relate and hold space for people, and that creates that feeling that they are coming to a safe place, and you have that deep knowledge and level of understanding, and certainly, through our training. It’s knowing when to lean in and what’s safe to share.”

Community development worker Ben Burns, who runs a suicide awareness program out of Caloundra Community Centre, said community-led safe spaces were an important alternative to the clinical model of care provided by the health system.

He said the Kenilworth group members had been proactive in building connection within the community and jumped on the idea of a safe space when he brought the Roses in the Ocean program to their attention.

“For us to set this up in Kenilworth, it’s a really cool piece of work that will provide a protective space to offer support for people in distress,” he said.

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