Building resilience in the wake of suicide: Newlands-Paparangi vestry takes action

Building resilience in the wake of suicide: Newlands-Paparangi vestry takes action

Warning: This story discusses suicide and may be triggering.

At Synod 2018, representatives heard a presentation from Tricia Hendry and Diana Langdon about mental health, and the appalling impact that suicide has on people communities in our nation.  Following on from that, the Vestry of Newlands-Paparangi Parish decided to instigate some actions that would help the community become more hopeful and resilient in the aftermath of suicide.  Late last year they put together a noticeboard of resources around mental health and wellbeing for people to “take what you need”.  More recently, the team invited community members to a seminar at the local community centre, and invited specialists to come and present as part of the discussion.

Dr Chris Bowden, suicide researcher and lecturer in the School of Education at Victoria University, spoke on how to build resilience in the aftermath of suicide. Chris identified four key factors that help build resilience – relationships, emotional skills, competence and optimism – and outlined ways to strengthen these factors in yourself and others. Chris also spoke of ways to walk alongside those who are grieving from a loved one’s death by suicide, emphasising the primacy of just being present – keeping checking in, and reassuring them that you are there for them. Rev Jennie Sim, the Vicar of Newlands-Paparangi, said “alongside Chris Bowden, we had local counsellors, GPs and our community police sergeant there, together with a team from Victim Support. Each spoke briefly of how they work alongside people to prevent, to respond and to support people after a suicide.”

With over 70 people present there was a real sense from the community that people want a safe place to figure out how to talk about it, how the community can respond and work together to mitigate this issue in our area. Many spoke of their own experiences, and the struggle to find support.  “We ended the meeting with a brainstorm of what we could do, and one immediate outcome is the setting up of a bereavement support group locally,” Jennie said.  Shelley Brunskill-Matson, a victim support specialist who is currently completing a PhD in Youth Suicide prevention and recovery, will be training up and working alongside local facilitators to bring about this support group in the next month.

Victim Support and the Mental Health Foundation provided a range of printed materials for people to take away, and the church has been able to share the extra brochures with other places in the local community. Jennie also acknowledged the assistance of Janine Banks, from Maungaraki Baptist, who shared the flyer of agencies and help numbers she and Tricia Hendry put together for their community seminar in November last year – this was easily adapted for a North Wellington context, saving them starting from scratch.

Jennie notes that “sometimes in the face of this issue it’s hard to know where to start, but as churches present in our local communities, we are uniquely placed to pull people together to begin the conversations. We were aware that we didn’t have all the answers, but by leaning into our networks, we were able to gather experts and people with local, on the ground, knowledge to share, and to facilitate the conversation.  Those we approached were so keen to be involved – they just needed someone to ask and invite them!”

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