Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

 

Operating out of two small shared office spaces in Perth and Darwin, the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTRP) are supporting those with no one left to turn to.

At just 11 months old, NSPTRP has already become a familiar name for mob who are doing it tough.

NSPTRP is run by proud Mineng Noongar yorga, Megan Krakouer. She said NSPTRP’s remit is simple: helping those who are critically vulnerable.

“We wanted to follow something we truly believed in. We knew there was an unmet need, we knew there was a gap [in suicide prevention and postvention],” said the NSPTRP Director.

Krakouer and NSPTRP’s National Coordinator, Gerry Georgatos, both left stable jobs to start NSPTRP. At first, they struggled to get the project off the ground.

“We got a small amount of funding with GRAMS [Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service] so that basically kept us going for four months,” Krakouer said.

“Gerry’s actually gone into his own pocket to fund a lot of this, and all the while we have been making a difference.”

Currently, NSPTRP meets with between 200 and 250 people a week.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, it’s not an easy job, but we knew that this is an area that we had to take a chance on because everyone’s lives matter.”

 

Going above and beyond

Although small—NSPTRP only has three employees on the books—the organisation works substantively with other providers and services to ensure a holistic approach is undertaken.

One of the services NSPTRP frequently works with is the First Nations Homelessness Project (FNHP).

Noongar/Nyoongar women Mona Yarran and Sharon Whitby both work for FNHP and said Megan and Gerry truly believe in the work they are doing.

“Megan and Gerry don’t even know what time out is. They work 24/7,” Yarran said.

Whitby has extensive experience working within government agencies.

“This is the first time [I’m working] with non-government [agencies] and I have never worked with better people that go above and beyond to help Indigenous people and families … whether it be housing, trauma, suicide prevention, the prison programs, the whole lot,” Whitby said.

“There’s no limitations,” added Yarran.

“There’s no boundaries that they won’t step above and beyond for … I’ve never met people like it, and I don’t think anyone else can match what they do,” Whitby said.

“It’s from the heart, it’s not from the book.”

 

Healing through home

The impact of the NSPTRP is evident when speaking to mother of three, Montina Kelly.

In November 2019, Kelly lost her 18-year-old son to suicide. Krakouer was one of the first people there to help.

“[My son had] just turned 18. My daughter found him … she was only 15,” Kelly said.

“Someone got me on to [Megan] … she came straight away that day.”

Kelly said she feels reassured knowing there’s mob out there who will help.

“The day I buried [my son] I didn’t know where to turn to or how to do a lot of things, because it was my first loss. Megan’s helped a lot, put me in the right direction.”

Since her son’s passing, Krakouer has helped Kelly with funeral arrangements, to secure housing, provided her with food and clothing, and encouraged Kelly to stay clean to pursue employment to support her two other children.

Kelly is soon to begin the training to employment program at Ngalla Maya.

Montina Kelly is now adjusting to life in her new home. Photo by Hannah Cross.

Housing was an important step for Kelly, who was living with her mother when her son took his life.

“I couldn’t stay in that house any longer because, I was too scared to go to the toilet or anything. I [was scared I’d] see my boy,” she said.

Kelly’s mother said she had seen her grandson a few times in the passage at night.

“After ten o’clock [at night] I wouldn’t get out of bed,” Kelly said.

Kelly has been in her new home for four months now and is slowly adjusting.

“Megan and Gerry helped me a lot, and I still get support from them … When I moved in I didn’t have anything, nothing at all, because all my money went [into] the funeral,” she said.

Kelly attributes her survival to Krakouer and NSPTRP.

“The reason I survived is by getting my own house through Megan.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to [live] down there [with my mum],” she said.

“I can still call [Megan] at ten o’clock at night and she’ll answer the phone if I’m down … we’ll just have a talk.”

Krakouer said part of what’s missing in suicide prevention and postvention is 24-hour support.

“A lot of these services … finish at 5.00pm. What’s that going to do, for our people that are still suffering? That’s why this service actually exists,” she said.

“You need to be in this role, who you are, 24/7.”

 

Working to save future lives

Clearly an emotionally and mentally taxing role, Krakouer said she sees something heartbreaking every single day.

“I rarely see my grandkids, and I rarely see my kids, because I’m always doing something with the suicide prevention mob trying to make a difference to a person’s life, but at the same time making my own personal sacrifices,” she said.

“It is about elevating those issues to ensure that the voices of our people that we represent are heard.”

For Krakouer, the biggest difficulty since launching NSPTRP nearly a year ago has been the lack of funding.

“What we do works. It actually does provide hope, it actually does save lives, it actually does improve life circumstances,” Krakouer said.

“This is about … that psychosocial support. When a program likes this is not funded to its full capability to effectuate change … that is heartbreaking.

“[But] we continue to do what we need to do … we’re dealing with people’s lives.”

On their last legs in terms of funding, Krakouer said NSPTRP has two funding submissions in the pipeline they are hoping will receive the green light.

After running a successful pilot program which saw the number of female detainees at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre drop from 18 to seven in just eight weeks, NSPTRP is hoping the funding will allow them to expand the program to all prisons across the state.

“I’ve chosen this path … because I truly believe in it and I truly believe that we will get over the line,” Krakouer said.

“And I truly believe that we can—once [NSPTRP] is properly funded—save thousands of lives and change the narrative.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:

 

By Hannah Cross