We talk a lot about collaboration in the suicide prevention sector. In fact, developing collaborative partnerships is written into the Objects of Suicide Prevention Australia’s Constitution.
Collaboration means working together to achieve something. In our case, the meaningful reduction of suicide in Australia. At the National Suicide Prevention Conference 2018 I was reflecting on the power of collaboration.
Were you amongst the 630 delegates who joined us in Adelaide from July 23-27?
If you were, then like me I’m sure you were moved by the energy and optimism that pervaded every conference venue. The thrum of hundreds of people sharing, learning, inspiring and being inspired. In every workshop, plenary session, symposium, concurrent session, poster presentation, soapbox speech, LiFE Award and conversation I felt the constant presence of real collaboration in action.
When we said we wanted to come together to increase our commitment to participate in a collaborative approach to suicide prevention, we meant it.
Our commitment to empower people with a lived experience of suicide to inform our work was reaffirmed. Two thirds of conference delegates identified as having a lived experience of suicide, and there were 59 bursary recipients in attendance.
During the Reflection Ceremony on Day 1 of the conference we remembered those who lost their lives to suicide and were reminded of our shared vision; a world without suicide. During this time, I also reflected on the importance of coming together as a sector in a poignant, physical way.
Suicide prevention is multifaceted work, with many areas of specialisation and sometimes, competition. It’s also a national challenge, with thousands of people working in a diverse array of locations and conditions. It’s easy to get absorbed in our particular piece of the puzzle, losing sight of the big picture.
There’s value in coming together to talk face-to-face with each other. To share what we’ve learnt, to learn from others, and to better understand our role in achieving a higher order goal; the meaningful reduction of suicide in Australia.
In my experience, mobilising behind and having clarity on a clear goal is a key condition for success when collaborating. There are four others; the people, the approach, the tools and the timeline.
I felt we had all five conditions for successful collaboration at last week’s conference.
Three key goals that can broadly be described as to empower, educate and engage the sector in suicide prevention.
People with lived experience, from priority populations, from suicide prevention, mental health, healthcare and allied health, researchers, policy-makers and international experts.
Having a focus on quality enabled us to craft a conference program that would empower delegates with the education they need to be better engaged in effective suicide prevention activities.
The variety of conference venues and formats enabled delegates to tailor their conference experience to meet their needs and gave presenters a choice of formats in which to present their work and engage with delegates.
Allowing sufficient time for delegates to work together, learn and network was crucial to increasing the sector’s commitment to a collaborative approach to suicide prevention. The pre- and post-conference workshops provided additional opportunities for delegates to work together, while three-days of learning and networking enabled them to maximise their investment in attending.
We’re currently surveying conference delegates on their views about the conference, but as a first-time attendee I left feeling that it’s possible to achieve a meaningful reduction in suicide in Australia - through the power of collaboration.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO