‘Tis the season to take stock of our mental health

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Dr Amanda Clacy

As the year draws to a close, mental health should be right up there with merriment and mistletoe as a topic of conversation, says the USC researcher behind a new survey.

Researchers from USC’s Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute have launched a survey to understand knowledge and opinions of people on the Sunshine Coast around mental health and suicide prevention, and their experiences with accessing help.

Postdoctoral fellow Dr Amanda Clacy from the Institute, who is leading the study, said approximately one person per week dies by suicide on the Sunshine Coast, a statistic that is higher than the national average.

“The findings from this survey will be used to build even stronger suicide prevention support networks for our community,” she said.

“These insights will help us get an understanding of the Coast’s needs in terms of education and services, allowing us to revise policy and support services based on the real needs of the community.”

The survey, called Depression and Suicide on the Sunshine Coast: A Survey of Our Community’s Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs should only take 15 minutes to complete, and information will remain completely confidential.

It comes ahead of February’s launch of the Sunshine Coast Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

The Alliance aims to unite Sunshine Coast organisations and community groups to work together to prevent suicide.

“The idea of the Alliance is to bring all the resources and key contacts into one place,” Dr Clacy said.

“By unifying and synchronising suicide prevention on the Sunshine Coast, we can remove help-seeking obstacles, connect people with the right services, provide a range of relevant training and education opportunities, and destigmatise how suicide is discussed and treated,” Dr Clacy said.

Dr Clacy said the Christmas period can be a particularly difficult time of year as people face additional stressors such as financial troubles, tiredness after a long year, family pressures and feelings of loneliness.

“These kinds of stressors can lead people to experience mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and issues with drugs or alcohol,” she said.

“Each of these mental health conditions can weigh a person down and are known precursors to suicidality”.

She said many people struggle at this time of year, but there are many forms of support available, from financial advice to activity-based support groups.

“Mental health doesn’t have to look like sitting in a psychologist’s office talking about your feelings,” Dr Clacy said.

“To be effective, however, support services need to reflect the needs of the community, which is why we are conducting this survey.

“We hope that everyone on the Sunshine Coast will fill out the survey, whether they have been directly impacted by mental illness, have supported someone else, or are just passionate about improving education and support in this important area for our community”.

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