TenterLIFE offering support and reducing stigma

Annual Review stories Community stories: 10 November 2022

On Jukembal, Kamilaroi and Bundjalung Country

The TenterLIFE Suicide Prevention Network was formed in 2019 in the northern NSW rural community of Tenterfield. By bringing members of the community together to talk and learn about suicide prevention, the organisation hopes to reduce the number of suicide and suicide attempts in the area.

Tenterfield has been through many traumas over the past few years. Drought, fires and more recently COVID have taken their toll on the community. The effects of the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires are still being felt by the community, with the landscape still blackened. This affects people’s mental health.

Tragically, there were 154 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 28 February 2021. This is similar to the number of deaths reported within the same time period in 2019 and 2020, so this is an ongoing issue that needs dedicated focus.

Chairperson of TenterLIFE, Lexie Sherren, explained that the numbers for the Inverell / Tenterfield area are among the highest in the state.

“By informing communities of the drastic need to be more aware of the situation, hopefully these numbers can reduce,” she explained in their application.

The compelling case, plus the support of a range of local stakeholders, including health, allied health, education and charity sectors, plus community members with first-hand experience of mental health and suicide impacts, coupled with their track record, saw TenterLIFE awarded a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, thanks to the support of a private donor. The funds went toward printing flyers, purchasing t-shirts and windcheaters to be worn on their public walks and running Suicide Prevention First Aid training. Having spent less money on the shirts and jackets, FRRR approved a variation that meant they also purchased a PA system to use at events, rather than borrowing from one of the members.

The group has held regular ‘Walk ’n’ Talk’ events, marked White Wreath Day where they remembered those lost to suicide, as well as participated in Stress Down Day, where there was a talk on stress management and then the group sang and blew bubbles.

“All the comments were positive and I don’t think I’ve seen everyone attending smile and laugh so much. We played People Bingo, had an A-Z Scavenger Hunt and played lots of games.

“These events instil a sense of belonging for community members. Knowing someone cares can provide relief for a person who may be suicidal. Giving voice to their thoughts and expressing their feelings aloud, knowing someone is there to listen, can be truly lifesaving. Isolation or feeling alone can also increase suicidal tendencies, while connection with another person can have the reverse affect,” Ms Sherren said.

The group has more activities planned throughout the year.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.