Hope Assistance Local Tradies (HALT), a national grass-roots suicide prevention charity, have announced they are employing a HALT Project Worker to connect with individuals and community groups affected by the devastating bushfires in the East Gippsland region. The funding for the new community role, awarded by the Mazda Foundation, is to be used directly to rebuild community resilience and mental health, particularly amongst tradies.
Working collaboratively with first responders, recovery workers and other tradies that are managing the rebuild of their communities, the HALT Project Worker would focus on reducing the stigma attached to seeking help, normalising trauma response and working to link people up with appropriate mental health services in their region, including the free counselling services recently offered through the Government’s bushfire recovery mental health care package.
HALT, who have previously done some work with tradies in the Gippsland region, are hoping to secure further funding in order to ensure the worker is employed on a long-term basis, part of the charity’s strategy to put full-time HALT workers in more regions across the country over the next 18 months, starting with those areas identified with the greatest need.
Founder and CEO Jeremy Forbes says: “We appreciate that the road to recovery will be a long and difficult one for many tradies and their communities. We wanted to take some direct local action to ensure those tradies are well supported, that they know they are valued, and that help is there if they need it.”
The suicide prevention charity is continuing to grow their support out further to other bushfire affected regions in the near future and are exploring ways of linking in with the recently announced federal funding to support recovery workers’ mental health, including the through the small community grants for local grass-roots initiatives and other funds being released through fire-affected Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
More than 3000 people in Australia lose their lives to suicide each year, with 75% of those being men. HALT, founded in 2013, place a strong emphasis on suicide prevention initiatives within traditionally male-centred trades. Their outreach programme amongst tradies encourages blokes to have some “tough conversations” around mental health difficulties like anxiety, depression, grief and loss. HALT also work to build bridges between tradies and their local GPs, psychologists and other local and national mental health support services.
One of the major risk factors for suicidality amongst men is a lack of communication or help- seeking behaviours. Jeremy Forbes emphasises that connecting communities and normalising conversations around mental health and suicide are the key aspects that make his outreach project effective: “Our HALT project worker will be employed within the East Gippsland community, for the community, to work toward normalising conversations around mental health and suicide amongst those people that may have previously been isolated or difficult to reach.”
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