‘Conversations Matter’ in the Coorong

Article image - ‘Conversations Matter’ in the Coorong George Bland and Warren Pickering will create a kinetic artwork for the Meningie foreshore, as part of the Long Story Short project. (Photo credit: Mark Thomson)

Coorong District Council, South Australia (SA), is forging a new way in suicide prevention, with a proactive approach to mental health awareness and community mobilisation.

After witnessing the devastating impacts of suicide on its community – namely seven suicides in the Tailem Bend area in recent years – Council helped form the Coorong Conversations Matter Suicide Prevention Network (SPN) in 2016.

A further three sub-networks have formed, known as: Conversations Matter Parks, Conversations Matter Mallee and Conversations Matter Lakes.

Now, thanks to a $20,000 grant from SA Health’s South Australian Suicide Prevention Networks, all of these groups will be able to cement their presence, ensuring a range of projects and programs continue to build awareness and access for people across the greater Coorong district.

Coorong Conversations Matter SPN Chair, Julie Barrie, said, “Even in its infancy, our Conversations Matter program has already started to open up the local dialogue on mental health and suicide in our district.

“We know rural men are in the significant suicide risk category, and this demographic makes up one of our biggest population groups here in the Coorong.”

Programs earmarked for the funding, include community education sessions, sporting club mental health training, improving information packs, a public awareness campaign and more.

One project prioritised to receive funding is Long Story Short, which acknowledges that rural men connect with each other by sharing stories.

Helping lead this project is Council’s Director Community and Corporate, Nat Traeger, who is also a passionate member of the Coorong Conversations Matter SPN Committee.

“Connecting people with one another through local stories helps to overcome isolation, and we’re using this idea to develop a creative program for local people to be a part of.

“Long Story Short is our answer, and rural men are helping to lead it.

“Our Creating Coonalpyn project proved that creative ideas, linked with strong leadership can help transform communities and peoples’ lives – and we’re hoping Long Story Short will have a similar impact.”