Since 2013, ConNetica and its partners have delivered this innovative program in communities and organisations across Australia to over 6,000 individuals. Evaluation has been in-built to every course delivered from the very earliest trails to programs delivered this month. In addition, independent evaluations have been carried out on seven occasions by the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University. In all, 3,058 pre and post course evaluations have been analysed by ANU. The most recent evaluation included researchers from Loyola University in Andalucía in Spain.
It pleases us immensely that the evaluation reported “outstanding results” in terms of improved knowledge, improved skills and most importantly improved willingness to have conversations with others who may be experiencing high levels of stress, who are not coping and may be becoming vulnerable to suicidal thinking or behavior. Importantly, the results are independent of the facilitators, and given more and more of the programs are delivered by community based trainers, in their own community, this is also enormously satisfying and a testament to our strategy of building local capacity.
When we undertook a needs analysis in 2012 with our project partners at OzHelp Foundation, Salvation Army’s Hope for life program, Dr. Martin Harris from University of Tasmania and Emeritus Professor Kathy Griffiths from the CMHR at ANU, we knew that almost every available suicide prevention program was in fact a suicide crisis intervention program. We believed that for lay people, not health or social care professionals or others working in high risk settings, the likelihood of encountering a person at imminent risk of suicide is a rare event. But encountering family members, friends, work colleagues or neighbours who are not coping or at the point of becoming overwhelmed with what life is challenging them with, is a relatively common event. What was needed was a training program to recognise these signs and to be able to reach out and respond in a way which facilitates the person in need finding the skills resources to overcome what is confronting them and impacting on their mental wellbeing.
Here are the summary comments from this latest evaluation from 325 people who undertook the program recently. Please see the link at the bottom of this blog post to view the full report.
“The assessment of Conversations for Life® obtained outstanding results. The attendees were mostly very satisfied with different aspects of the organisation of the course, such as the material and the presenter. Moreover, they mostly thought that the content was relevant. Finally, they did not feel any distress during the program, and they would recommend it.
“The majority of participants reported a statistically significant increase in their knowledge about the prevention of suicide and skills and willingness to have a conversation. They reported improved skills to engage in a conversation to reduce the suicide risk of a person, including to know when the conversation is required, to find the right moment, to initiate the conversation, help another person express their thoughts and feelings, to adopt a respectful approach, to follow practical steps and take action if needed and, finally, to refer the person for help. Moreover, most participants were willing to engage in a conversation, to work out the practical steps learnt and take action if needed, and to refer the person for help.”