LIFE MATTERS: Paul Burke and Ron Petterson of Whitsunday Suicide Prevention Network.
LIFE MATTERS: Paul Burke and Ron Petterson of Whitsunday Suicide Prevention Network. CONTRIBUTED

World Suicide Prevention Day a talking point for local group

More than 2,800 people die each year from taking their own lives in Australia, with about 65,000 people attempting suicide each year and hundreds of thousands of people thinking about it.

The Whitsundays are not immune to the shocking statistics, a region that has significant issues with the wellbeing of its community including mental health, suicide, drugs and alcohol, financial strain and, recently, the after-effects of TC Debbie, which impacted the region in March last year.

The region has long been identified as being above the state and national average in suicide.

Monday (September 10) was World Suicide Prevention Day, with the 2018 theme being "Working Together to Prevent Suicide”, highlighting the most essential ingredient for effective global suicide prevention- collaboration. Many suicide prevention awareness-raising events were held around the country.

Locally, the Whitsunday Suicide Prevention Network (WSPN) marked the day by speaking to businessmen and women at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Airlie Beach, on Monday evening.

WSPN's president and chairman, Ron Petterson, addressed the audience, as did treasurer Paul Burke.

"It is evident there is considerable stress on families and individuals in the Whitsundays, with increased mental health concerns,” Mr Petterson said.

"Additionally, recent data shows suicide rates, as well as people needing support, are increasing, as well as domestic violence, drug and alcohol issues, child safety, mental health and the need for professional counselling. 

"Research demonstrates early intervention and support prevents more serious issues developing and can have a direct impact on the issues, as well as raising awareness and reducing stigma, and is critical for the health and wellbeing of people, families and the community.”

WSPN was incorporated in 2016 and has grown to have connections at both local and national levels. It is run by a board of 10 professionals and community leaders.

WSPN's goals include raising awareness about suicide and reducing the stigma and its impact on families and the community, as well as raising awareness about the network itself and gaining community involvement.

The network collaborates with those working in suicide prevention and partners with organisations to assist delivery of suicide prevention training, activities, programs and events.

If you would like to become a member of WSPN and support its work, please email

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