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Australia's first Indigenous suicide crisis line

Rachael Knowles -

The nation's first Aboriginal-led suicide prevention crisis line was launched in WA on Christmas day.

Delivered by Spartan First Mental Wellbeing, the crisis line is manned by skilled responders dedicated to supporting First Nations peoples in Western Australia.

The line will be staffed almost 24/7, with responders answering calls from 7am until 9pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. Calls made after hours will be diverted to responders who will answer or return the call as soon as possible.

Currently, the crisis line is a 10-week pilot program funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

Spartan First CEO Des Headland notes the importance of launching the crisis line during the holiday period.

"This time of the year is crucial for the Aboriginal community across WA in terms of suicide prevention," he said.

"As we know a lot of the lead agencies are shut over this period, so it was crucial to get up a 24/7 crisis line which has skilled responders [who are] able to help the community and guide them."

Seasoned suicide prevention responder and researcher Gerry Georgatos supported the establishment of the crisis line and echoed Headland's sentiments, noting the crisis line has already received calls.

"Christmas day has never come for me, in the dozen years I've had in this space, without loss," he said.

"The hotline was set up in a time where suicidality escalates and all the services we could refer them to or coordinate with are for the most parts shut.

"We've had to improvise, we've had to have a lot of conversation, had contact with family members and some of our own workers have assisted personally.

"We want to keep people alive."

Georgatos has been working to train responders manning the crisis line.

"The majority of the responders are First Nations ...there is professional development going on, I'll be working on that training," he said.

"Most of responders come with at least a Certificate IV in Mental Health Training, we have a resident psychologist for clinical supervision."

Georgatos also noted the crisis line's potential to grow.

"The service is skeletal, but it is all that there is at this stage. There is no service of its type, [which is] First Nations dedicated anywhere in the country," he said.

"This crisis line should be rolled out nationally ...What we need to see is it scaled up and for that to happen as fast as possible."

Despite having funding for only 10-week pilot, both Headland and Georgatos are certain the crisis line will deliver outcomes and support community.

"Hopefully it will be upscaled and [have] more investment ... it is really sad that this is all there is," said Georgatos.

"At no point should we be leaving people without support. The reality is that there is a significant proportion of people are left unsupported 100 per cent of the time during these periods."

As Spartan CEO, Headland is dedicated to supporting the WA community.

"We want to deliver a good job for the community, and we hope to see that program delivered over a 12-month to 2-year period eventually and ongoing," he said.

"The aim is to get it out there and deliver outcomes over this crazy period, and we can respond to calls and help out."

Contact the hotline here: 1800 370 747

By Rachael Knowles

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