R U OK? Day was the perfect time for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative to look at the good work that's been done - and how much more can be achieved.
Four years ago the collaborative formed to tackle the region's high rates of suicide, which remain higher than the state average - with 40 to 60 suicides reported each year.
Since then the more than 40 member organisations have joined with many with lived experience of suicidality to bring about awareness, and most importantly change.
On Thursday, at an event at the Kiama Pavilion, the collaborative released its first Report Card which outlined just how much has been achieved.
The collaborative was chosen as one of four trial sites for the Black Dog Institute's LifeSpan initiative in NSW, which has seen it implement a whole range of strategies across the community.
That's included rolling out a mental health program to more than 5800 Year 9 students across the region; and helping connect more than 120 suicidal people presenting to emergency departments with after care services.
Almost 250 residents have completed mental health screening at their GPs, while over 200 health professionals have had advanced training in suicide prevention.
The collaborative also partnered with the Illawarra Mercury in the award-winning Care to QPR campaign which resulted in around 3000 people signing up for online suicide prevention training.
All up, more than 200,000 people have been reached by community awareness campaigns.
Yet none of the achievements would have been possible without the guidance of those with lived experience, said collaborative regional manager Dr Alex Hains.
"When we started the collaborative in 2015, we looked to people with lived experience to guide us and teach us how to make suicide prevention activities more effective," he said.
"We hoped that they would enable us to change the conversation from the usual script, and help cut through the barriers that have stifled change in the past.
"Well, they've certainly done all of that. But we didn't anticipate how positive an experience it would be for them to simply be involved in this work, to have their voices heard and respected.
"We've had lived experience members tell us how their involvement with the collaborative has given them back confidence and meaning in life."
People like Ann Frankham, who attempted to take her life in 1974, but couldn't talk about it for nearly half a century.
"For the first time in nearly 50 years I've been able to speak freely about my own experience, to not just be heard but be encouraged to speak about it," she said.
"I know now there's always hope - and there's more hope now than there was 50 years ago. There's more help, more awareness and more willingness for people to be open and honest.
"Now it's okay to not be okay, and it's okay to speak about it."
However Dr Hains said while a lot had been achieved, there was much yet to be done to reduce suicide rates in the region - and beyond.
"While there's great work happening and we look forward to seeing a downward trend in suicide deaths over time, we're certainly not there yet," he said.
"There are still eight people dying by suicide every single day in Australia. That's eight families deeply and permanently devastated. That's eight today, eight tomorrow ...
"So while we reflect on successes, we also reaffirm our commitment to continue to work together to ensure our efforts are effective."
For more information visit www.suicidepreventioncollaborative.org.au/
For support ring Lifeline on 13 11 14.