The importance of the lived experience in suicide prevention cannot be underestimated, says Allan Sparkes CV AV.
Allan Sparkes is Australia’s most highly decorated civilian. The former police officer and one of only five Australians in the past 41 years to be awarded Australia’s highest bravery decoration, the Cross of Valour, Mr Sparkes will be just one of the inspirational speakers at this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day Forum (September 9), hosted by Griffith’s Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.
The 58 year-old from Sydney received the award for rescuing a child from a flooded stormwater drain in 1996. More recently in August, the Governor General also announced him as a further Australian bravery decoration recipient for rescuing a man who had fallen onto the train tracks at Redfern in 2014.
Following the rescue in 1996, Mr Sparkes suffered chronic PTSD, severe depression and suicidal thoughts and has fought every day since his recovery to provide a voice for those going through the same struggles.
For Mr Sparkes, the awards are a powerful opportunity to talk about mental health and suicide prevention, and in particular the sharing of experiences.
“As a result of my experiences, I can understand why people feel the way that they do but it’s important for people in these dire situations to know that they can get through – but they have to want to,” he says. “Unfortunately there is no magic pill for issues such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and although the services are certainly out there and much is being done, we still need more stories of recovery to provide support, encouragement and hope to people.
“Real life stories from people who have experienced mental health and suicide issues are really useful for others in risky situations in educating them about the skills needed to survive and recover,” says Mr Sparkes. “Learning about the impacts of stress on the mind and body and how they can be precipitators to mental illness are also very important.
Greater inclusion of people who have recovered
“I would love to see a greater inclusion of people who have recovered, to support others and also to engage with clinicians so that they can learn more too.
“Life today can be tough in many ways, with so much pressure on people financially, emotionally and through the media; it’s going to take a lot of change in society’s attitude to make a difference. Nearly 3,000 people a year in Australia take their own lives but rather than just focussing on the statistics, we need to tap into the knowledge of those that have been there.”
‘Connect, Communicate, Care’ is the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10 2016).
The Community Day Forum (Friday Sep 9) hosted by AISRAP, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, is being held at the Greek Club in Brisbane and will feature a range of speakers including Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, QLD Commissioner for Mental Health, as well as speakers from AISRAP and organisations such as Suicide Prevention Australia, Northern Queensland Primary Health Network, University of Southern Queensland, University of Western Australia.
MEDIA ARE INVITED TO ATTEND
WHAT: World Suicide Prevention Day Community Forum hosted by Griffith’s Australian Institute for Suicide Prevention and Research.
WHEN: Friday September 9. Registration 8am, concluding 4.30pm, with a ‘Connect, Communicate and Care’ Networking function from 5-7pm.
WHERE: The Greek Club, ground floor Odyssey Taverna, 29 Edmondstone St, South Brisbane, 4101.
COST: $55 for the whole day forum. Networking function additional $10 registration.