Simple, sustainable solution to a CORE problem

A small group in the central north of Tasmania is inspiring the Local Government and community sector to train ordinary community members to be volunteers to stop suicide. Following a number of suicides in the area, the Kentish community agreed to establish a suicide intervention program – the Community Response to Eliminating Suicide (CORES) program.

The program is something the whole community can participate in to address the suicide problem. It teaches volunteers how to recognise if someone is suicidal, and once they have established this, how to intervene.

As Manager of the Kentish Health Centre, nurse Coralanne Walker was instrumental in developing the CORES program, in partnership with other local service providers. In 2007, Coralanne relocated the administration to the Kentish Regional Clinic Inc.

She said that in the two years since the program’s inception, there has not been a single suicide in Kentish.

“Anyone can be a victim of suicide – young people, older people, from all walks of life,” Coralanne Walker said. “It is crucial that we have a community response to this community problem. To achieve this, we need Council support. CORES is not a mental health or medical model, it is a community model and Councils are the best vehicle to spread the word.”

Coralanne Walker said the CORES program teaches the community to care for itself.

“We train a group in the local community to be trainers and they then train their own community,” she said. “This makes the program self sustaining, well after the initial 12 month program has finished.

“Once a community has finished the program, they become part of the CORES family. We are aiming to build a nationwide community network where we are in constant contact.”

Coralanne Walker said the theory behind CORES is that the handful of medical personnel in a community can’t be expected to pick up on those who might be suicidal.

“Equipping a diverse range of residents with the skills to identify and assist increases the chances people will get help before it’s too late,” she said.

At a CORES training day, volunteers discuss myths such as people who talk about suicide won’t do it; people who think about or plan to do it keep it to themselves; people who talk about it are just attention seeking; and that once a person has decided to kill themselves, no one can stop them.

Volunteers are also taught to ask, ‘are you thinking of killing yourself?’ and if a person says yes, they will know all the options available to get help. More than 200 of Sheffield’s 5,000 residents have completed the course, including a mechanic, a yoga teacher, an occupational therapist, a cook, a childcare worker, a farmer, an artist, a photographer and a cleaner. Coralanne Walker said many have used the training with great effect.

“Communities are looking for something that is easy to pick up and effective,” she said.

“Already this year, programs are being delivered in Victoria and Tasmania, with strong interest from various communities in South Australia and Queensland. The town of Donald, in Buloke Shire, Victoria, rolled out the program in 2007, aiming
to assist the hard hit farming community.

“The next step is for both the Federal and State Governments to get behind the program and fund it on an ongoing basis, so communities around Australia can gain the benefit of reducing suicides and building strong communities.”

Since initiating the CORES program, Coralanne has become a Councillor on Kentish Council. She is using her position to improve health services in the region and get a better go for farmers.

For further information contact Councillor Coralanne Walker on 0488 080 056.