Guiding principles for community action

Do no harm

Before setting up any suicide prevention project, the most important thing is to look at what works. This means considering a range of issues including the timing of suicide prevention initiatives if there have been deaths by suicide in the community.

It also includes seeking advice from organisations such as Suicide Prevention Australia in relation to suicide prevention and the National StandBy Response Service in relation to a community's response to deaths by suicide.

Plan your activities

Emotions may spur communities to action but it’s better to take the time to consult the community and experts about how best to address needs. This involves considering whether the community action group has enough staff, volunteers and resources to undertake the activities planned.

Community readiness and capacity

For some people losing someone they love to suicide is emotionally devastating. The grieving process can be more complex than grieving for someone who died from natural causes. So if people with lived experience of suicide are members of the group and/or are volunteers with it, you need to discuss with them their readiness to participate and provide appropriate support for them to participate.

Don’t lose heart

Forming a group is difficult so don’t lose heart if things aren’t going as planned. The process of building a group can be as useful as what it does.

The benefits of a group are:

  • meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet
  • talking to others and sharing ideas.

This all helps to form a sense of community that can help protect against suicide.

It’s also important not to lose heart if, despite all your hard work, other suicides happen. It takes energy, enthusiasm and a lot of hard work to achieve your goals. Caring for yourself and others in your group is really important to prevent stress and burnout.

Suicide is complex and there can be as many different responses as there are people in your town. It may take time for a community to feel ready to respond to a call to action. Try to gauge when people are ready to join the effort to build a suicide-aware and safe community.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to get people on board. The stigma and taboos about suicide mean some people may say suicide doesn’t happen in your community so a plan isn’t needed. You can help improve understanding by sharing the myths and facts about suicide in your conversations with people.