Recognition for Stronger Smarter Yarns for life - Early Suicide Prevention Program

ConNetica and Strong Smart Solutions are delighted to be nominated as a Finalist in the 2018 Queensland Mental Health Week Achievement Awards - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander category.

The Stronger Smarter Yarns for life suicide prevention program was developed and trialed by ConNetica and Strong Smart Solutions in 2016 and early 2017 and is now being implemented in many communities across Australia. An initial grant of $50,000 from the Queensland Mental Health Commission supported the development work and followed needs analysis with Indigenous educators and communities in 2015.

“We are very proud that our strengths based, early suicide prevention program has achieved this recognition, especially knowing that there was an overwhelming volume of nominations” said MarionWands, Chief Executive of ConNetica.

The Stronger Smarter Yarns for life program was co-developed by leading Indigenous educator Professor Chris Sarra (2016 NAIDOC Person of the Year) and mental health and suicide prevention experts Adjunct Professor John Mendoza (Inaugural Chair National Mental Health Advisory Committee and previous CEO Australian Mental Health Council, ConNetica Director) and Marion Wands (CEO, ConNetica).

The program was piloted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast and Canberra and includes input from Indigenous people with a lived experience of suicide.

“This is a program grounded in Indigenous cultural and based on a strengths based indigenousleadership model. It is uniquely Australian; uniquely Indigenous”, said Professor Chris Sarra.

“The other key elements of the approach is that Yarns for life is early suicide prevention, unlike most existing programs which are focused on suicide crises. Secondly, we train local indigenous and non- indigenous people to lead these programs in their own communities providing a sustainable andcontextually relevant approach”, said Adj Professor John Mendoza.

The program has been delivered in metropolitan, rural and remote locations including Cherbourg, Goondiwindi, Warwick, Toowoomba, Woorabinda, Rockhampton, Mt Isa, Cairns, Townsville, Bundaberg, Whitsundays, Moranbah, Sunshine Coast, Eastern Melbourne and most recently Derby (Kimberleys) to a cross section of participants, including traditional owners, community members, health and community workers, youth workers, teachers, aged care workers and police liaison officers.

The program has shown significant increases in knowledge, skills and willingness to have yarns with people who are becoming vulnerable or overwhelmed.

As noted by one Cairns participant, Cathy Lee (Youth Empowered Towards Independence), “This is a common-sense approach to suicide prevention, it takes it back to grass roots levels, before the state of the person escalates into a crisis. A common-sense approach that provides practical tools and skills to have a conversation that could be potentially awkward – but now has the potential to assist the person who is distressed to reach a positive and healthy outcome.

Additional testimonies and vignettes visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Adj. Professor John Mendoza, Director ConNetica Ph.: 07 5491 5456
M: 0415 715 900

ConNetica • PO Box 1311• Coolum Beach 4573 • Tel: 07 5491 5456 •

About Stronger Smarter Yarns for life

Stronger Smarter Yarns for life is a one-day early suicide prevention course for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The program was developed following a national needs analysis, funded by ACT Health with a $20,000 grant, in 2015, and then designed and trialed in early 2016. Funding for the design and trial was supported with grants from the Qld Mental Health Commission and ACT Health.

The objective of this culturally appropriate, tailorable program is to train local indigenous and non- indigenous people to be READY, WILLING and ABLE to have yarns with people who are becoming vulnerable. So when someone says “I’m NOT OK, or I’M FEELING SLACK”, people will know what tosay, how to offer support and where to go if additional support is required.

The program incorporates:

  • the unique factors contributing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ thoughts of

    suicide, alcohol and substance abuse and other detrimental behaviours

  • a strengths-based approach to community engagement, social support and suicide


  • an awareness of the prevalence of mental illness and suicide in Australia generally and for

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

  • the skills and knowledge to identify signs and debunk myths relating to suicide

  • tailored and practical suicide prevention yarn planning tools and tips to support yarns about

    everyday issues

  • opportunities to practice effective suicide prevention yarning techniques

  • details of suitable national and local referral services, support options and resources.

    Participants receive participant’s guide and other resources. Trainers receive comprehensive training manuals, ongoing mentoring and coaching and where requested co-facilitation support.


    The program includes pre and post evaluations. A total of 207 evaluations were completed by all course participants in 2016-17 and are shown in the following data. This includes 41 people who participated in 3-day train-the-trainer programs. An additional 17 participants completed train-the- trainer in Derby in September but the results are not included here.

    The results show significant increases in knowledge, skills and willingness to have yarns with people who are becoming vulnerable.

Further analysis of the results from Yarns for life is being undertaken by the Centre for Mental health9Research, Australian National University.