Group stresses value of reaching out

The difference one person can make by reaching out and connecting with another cannot be underestimated, says the chairwoman of a Waitaki group tackling the issue of suicide.

Carron Cossens says the group wants to educate the community to recognise the value of a simple chat.

''We cannot understate the power of a simple conversation.

''Too often we find ourselves isolated, with friends and family already overloaded with the demands of day-to-day living.''

Something as small as a smile or a nod, a cheery greeting from a shopkeeper or taking the time to ask a question could make a difference, she said.

The Waitaki Suicide Postvention Group was set up as part of a national movement to enable communities to better respond after a suicide.

''Postvention'' is intervention after a suicide has occurred, and includes measures such as providing support to family and friends.

But the group's goals are wider than that.

The group met recently in Kurow to discuss ways of developing resilience in the Waitaki community, to reduce the impact of suicide and help prevent it.

''The best postvention is prevention,'' Ms Cossens said.

The group runs suicide prevention courses called Safetalk. The courses were designed to empower people to ''ask the hard questions'' when they were worried about a person's safety, Ms Cossens said.

''It's interactive, positive and uplifting.

''From other Safetalk trainings we've done, we know, informally, that they have made a difference to three people's lives already and that's pretty special.''

The core working group includes Ms Cossens, Frances Oakes, of Waitaki Community Mental Health, David Mellish, of the Otago Rural Support Trust, Wayne Stringer, of Age Concern, and Senior Sergeant Jason McCoy, of Oamaru.

Often the group only met after a death. It was ''easy to think there are government agencies meant to be keeping members of the community safe in times of crisis'', Ms Cossens said.

''While we acknowledge the sterling work of agencies, we realise that it takes a whole community to maintain the safety of an individual at risk.''

The group also plans to develop a network of ''Champions of Wellbeing''.

A suicide bereavement support group is also being set up in Oamaru.

The first gathering will be in the Dean O'Reilly Lounge, beside Oamaru's Catholic Church, on September 17 at 7.30pm.

Safetalk courses

What: Empowering people to ''ask the hard questions'' when they are worried about a person's safety.
When: September 24, 11am-3pm
Where: Brydone Hotel (Lindis Room), Oamaru

For more information contact Carron Cossens on 027-282-0615 or email

Lifeline New Zealand 0800-543-354
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508-828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Kidsline 0800-54-37-54 (0800 KIDSLINE)


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