• A new campaign has been launched, targeted at preventing suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (AAP)Source: AAP
Of more than a hundred people who have done the training, all have used it at least once.
Ella Archibald-Binge

NITV News, The Point
27 Mar 2019 - 8:10 AM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2019 - 8:11 AM

Content Warning: This article discusses suicide. 

An Indigenous-led program, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, is equipping First Nations communities with the tools to intervene if a loved one is contemplating suicide. 

The Indigenous Network Suicide Intervention Training (INSIST) research program is currently being trialled in south-east Queensland with promising results. 

"This program is intervention," said Maree Toombs, Director of Indigenous Health at the University of Queensland Rural Clinical School. 

"It’s skill set is to be able to deal with the situation then and there on the spot... and there are no other programs that I know of in Australia that do that."

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the program trains friends and family to spot a suicide risk and take immediate steps to stop it.

Indigenous suicide prevention campaign launched by RUOK
Organisers say the campaign comes at a time when reducing suicide rates looms as one of Australia's most important challenges.

Dr Toombs says participants are trained to explicitly ask, 'Are you thinking about suicide?' - rather than using more ambiguous terms such as, 'Are you thinking about doing something silly'. 

"And you’ll see this immediate relief that comes over the person, because they’ve been able to tell someone else what’s going on," she explains.

Dr Toombs says the next step is to listen to their story and home in on what’s called a 'life voice' – a reason for hesitation, such as concern for family and friends.

From there, participants work with the person to make a plan to ensure their immediate safety.

"Overall that framework is highly effective," Dr Toombs said.

"I will say some people are so determined that there’s nothing that you can do to stop them. But in most instances, when you notice and you can pick up on that, there is a good resolution to that."

More than a hundred people have taken the training in Toowoomba, Warwick and Rockhampton. 

"Of those 110 that have done the training, everyone has used the intervention at least once," Dr Toombs said.

"Some people have used it six, seven, eight times. I’ve used it three times. So we know that it works."

With the program in high demand and an INSIST app already available, it's hoped the framework will be rolled out nationally in the coming years.

Dr Toombs aims to have a trainer in every community across Australia who's able to instruct others, similar to a first aid course. 

"I won’t rest until this is a national program that everyone has access to, because it does work," she says. 

For more information on the INSIST program, contact Maree Toombs at m.toombs@uq.edu.au.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

For more, watch tonight's episode of NITV's #ThePoint at 8.30pm on Channel 34.

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