Health & Wellbeing

Mental health initiatives helping rural and regional communities

Edwina Mason4 January 2022
Suicide prevention initiatives

Wagga Wagga and Griffith will benefit from a new two-pronged $46 million NSW Government investment in suicide prevention initiatives across the state. Photo: MLHD.

Floodlights are beaming into rural and regional NSW, lighting the way to better support for those with mental health conditions – starting with the addition of two new safe havens in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

A recent announcement from NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor has been a coup for the communities surrounding Wagga Wagga and Griffith; they are the only southern NSW centres to benefit from a new two-pronged $46 million NSW Government investment in suicide prevention initiatives across the state.

In total, 20 calming non-clinical hubs called Safe Havens and 20 Suicide Prevention Outreach Teams (SPOTs) are set to bolster existing mental health support services throughout NSW.


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The Griffith Safe Haven at 5 Wiradjuri Place opened its doors at the end of August while Wagga’s Safe Haven, located at 7 Yathong Street, is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 2 pm and 9 pm.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said no appointments or referrals were needed for the free and confidential hubs.

Steph Cooke

NSW Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke. Photo: Supplied.

“So whether you need some peace and quiet, a chat with someone who understands what you’re going through, or some calming activities to reduce the intensity of your negative thoughts and feelings, you can walk right in,” Ms Cooke said.

The facilities are staffed by peer workers trained in helping people cope with severe distress.

“The peer support team have had their own personal lived experience of suicidal distress and can help people by linking them to the services and support programs that can assist them,” Ms Cooke added.

In addition to the new Safe Havens, the 20 new mobile SPOT teams will provide rapid outreach to people in suicidal distress in the community, with 14 teams already up and running.

The new teams will combine clinical expertise and lived experience of suicide, and care for people at or near their homes – ensuring they stay connected with their family, friends and other valuable support networks, she added.

“We know suicide prevention support needs to engage distressed people where they live their lives – so we can provide support at the point before someone needs clinical care,” Ms Cooke said.

Also kicking goals in the rural mental health arena is animal health company Zoetis, which has once again hit its yearly target, raising $100,000 to support the mental health challenges faced by people living in rural Australia.

This takes the total raised to $600,000 in a joint campaign with Beyond Blue that started in 2016, where $5 from each sale of the company’s cattle, sheep, pig, poultry and goat vaccines and drenches goes directly to the Beyond Blue Support Service.

To date, according to Zoetis, that has translated to over 12,500 people getting the support they need.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the Beyond Blue Support Service continued to experience increased demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year has brought its challenges and people have got in touch with us for many reasons. They might be feeling worried, lonely, concerned about their health or the health of friends and loved ones, finances or job security,” Ms Harman said.


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“Whatever the reason, Beyond Blue wants people to know that no problem is too big or small to reach out. Sometimes, just talking to someone can make a difference.

“Through this partnership, Beyond Blue can support many people in rural areas and we are very grateful for the ongoing support from Zoetis,” she said.

More information about Beyond Blue’s services can be found on their website.

  • Beyond Blue Support Service: 1300 224 636

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, please seek help immediately by calling 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511.

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