A spate of suicide deaths in the Illawarra in recent weeks has seen the formation of a rapid response group to take urgent action.
Lifeline South Coast CEO Renee Green said the group was implementing a range of activities and services to help those in distress, particularly young people.
This included the launch of 'Space to Be' at Kiama, a centre young people could drop in after school; as well as information sessions for concerned parents and carers in Wollongong and Kiama early next week.
"We have seen an increase in incidents of suicide throughout the Illawarra, including that of young people, in the last three weeks," Ms Green said. "It follows a number of deaths by suicide in Kiama and the surrounding areas last year.
"Any life lost to suicide is an absolute tragedy, particularly for family and friends. It also has a significant ripple effect throughout communities, including schools, workplaces and sporting clubs. Communities tend to be really affected and impacted and share a lot of that grief.
"The organisations that put all their efforts and energy into trying to prevent suicide also take it very hard. However we know it's a complicated issue and it reaffirms to us why it's so important to keep focusing on activities to reduce suicide."
Lifeline has joined forces with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, Headspace, the local health district and primary health network as well as local councils and emergency services to take immediate action.
"We have formed a response group to ensure we are all working together to provide the support these communities need right now," Ms Green said.
"We're not aware of any single event or incident that might be leading to this recent increase in incidents, but we're very aware communities in general are under a lot of stress due to bushfires, floods and the pandemic - as well as the normal stressors in life people come across.
"Through a range of activities we want to not only provide support to people in need, but to help support parents and carers and educate them about the warning signs and give them tips on how to have difficult conversations."
Ms Green said parents and carers should look for any change in young people, for instance if they became more reserved or were pulling away from family, friends or activities. If they needed support, there were several agencies available to help.
"We want to reassure everyone that all services and stakeholders are taking this very seriously, and we are working very hard to put as many things in place as we can to protect young people, and adults, and provide the support they need, when they need it."
'Space to Be' drop-in sessions will be held next week at Joyce Wheatley Centre, Hindmarsh Park, Kiama, from 3-5pm, on May 11, 12 and 14.
Help is always available: call Lifeline on 13 11 14; Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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