An Illawarra suicide prevention campaign has won Australasia's top award for mental health reporting.
The Illawarra Mercury's head of news and health reporter Lisa Wachsmuth has been awarded the Text Journalism Award for the Mental Health Service Media Awards of Australia and New Zealand and will receive the award in Brisbane later this month.
The award recognises Ms Wachsmuth's work on the Mercury's Care to QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer campaign, which is the second national honour for the initiative in recent months. The campaign was awarded the national media award at the LiFE Awards in Melbourne in July for excellence in suicide prevention.
The Mental Health Service Awards of Australia and New Zealand are presented every year by The Mental Health Services Learning Network to recognise and encourage best practice, excellence and innovation in mental health service delivery. Ms Wachsmuth paid tribute to the people who shared their stories as part of the campaign.
"I'm thankful to everyone who helped with this campaign - most importantly those with lived experience who were brave enough to share their stories for no other reason than to raise awareness, and to help others," Ms Wachsmuth said. "It's these people who give hope to others struggling with suicidality."
Illawatrra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative regional manager Alex Hains hailed the campaign as the "most significant suicide prevention campaign ever undertaken in the region".
"The campaign featured deeply personal accounts of suicide and recovery," he said.
"Whether from a 50-year old man who has had a number of close mates suicide, from a young woman who attempted suicide five years ago, or from a police officer or GP, these stories communicated powerful messages of hope and recovery.
"The campaign also highlighted the work currently being done in suicide prevention locally, emphasising that there are things we can all do to prevent suicide."
He said what made the Mercury campaign unique was it wasn't simply about raising community awareness, it also translated that awareness into action by promoting and encouraging community members to complete the Question Persuade Refer (QPR) online training.
"Over the course of two-month campaign, approximately 3000 people signed up to do QPR online training," he said.
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt will present the award at the Mental Health Services Conference held in Brisbane later this month.
If you need support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511
'A strong reflection on our community'
Two key supporters of the Mercury'sCare to QPR: Question, Persuade, Refercampaign have hailed its national recognition as a reflection of the Illawarra community.
Member for Keira Ryan Park and Federal member for Whitlam Stephen Jones were integral in securing $20,000 in funding to ensure the community could access free online training during the course of the campaign.
"This is a great community achievement and shows what can be done when we work together to assist those most vulnerable in our region," Mr Park said.
"I am delighted that this innovative program has been recognised with this prestigious award.
"However what makes me even more pleased is the lives that have been saved and the people and families who have been touched by members of the community who have reached out in an appropriate way and offered advice and assistance to prevent those suffering mental anguish from taking their life.
"Once again it highlights why I love our community and the way it looks after and assists those doing it tough in a way that has a positive impact on their life going forward."
Mr Jones urged the Illawarra community to continue to work together to offer hope.
"I'm so proud of what our community has been able to achieve," he said.
"Of course the real award will be when we reach the goal of eliminating suicide throughout the region.
"I'm keen to work with the Mercury, with Dr Hains, with our state colleagues and community leaders to get more support to take this collaborative to the next level."
For further resources, local support contacts and a link to the QPR training online please visit suicidepreventioncollaborative.org.au/