I am currently logged into the Mental Health Academy Suicide Prevention Summit. Over three days I am listening to a range of people covering a plethora of topics about suicide and its prevention. Day one - Australian experts; day two - international speakers; and day three looks to be a mix of both US and Australian experts.
Two things have struck me about these presentations:
There is nothing more frustrating than listening to a presentation that consists only of reading the powerpoint slides. This does nothing to enhance the educational experience, especially given all delegates will be receiving the slides at the end of the day. I did not have to give up hours of time on the weekend to listen to presenters read their slides. I expect to learn from their expertise by listening to what, how and where they have utilised their knowledge and skills to improve outcomes for someone exhibiting suicidal behaviours. (end of rant!)
The second is the use of language and the importance of knowing the right way to present on the topic. It was this that reminded me of the release earlier this year of the National Communications Charter: a unified approach to mental health and suicide prevention.
This easy to read document should be prescribed reading for anyone who is presenting on this topic. Too often I have seen people walk out of a conference because a presenter was not sensitive to the nuances of language and how this impacts on vulnerable individuals.
The Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia has signed up to the pledge and its eight core principles:
1. Make mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention a priority issue
2. Use appropriate, person-centred and respectful language in all communication
3. Share nationally consistent information and messages
4. Work together to maximise our efforts and resources
5. Use The Charter as a guide for strategic communications, advocacy and awareness raising
6. Acknowledge those with lived experience of mental ill-health or suicide
7. Respect the diversity of experience of those affected by mental ill-health or suicide
8. Promote crisis services and help-seeking information
You don’t have to be an organisation to sign up, individuals are encouraged to do so too. If we understand how to sensitively and appropriately speak about suicide and its prevention perhaps many more conversations would open up more readily.
Will you sign up and improve the conversations?