Mercy College principal Jim Ford is in the process of getting the suicide prevention program SafeTALK into the school. Photo: Emily Smith / The Daily Mercury.
Mercy College principal Jim Ford is in the process of getting the suicide prevention program SafeTALK into the school. Photo: Emily Smith / The Daily Mercury.

Principal proud to be in first school teaching SafeTALK

EVERY school will soon teach a suicide prevention program.

That's what Mercy College principal Jim Ford believes, and why he is acting on a request from students to introduce prevention program SafeTALK at the Mackay high school.

"Schools are very much a barometer of society," Mr Ford said.

"I think these programs will definitely infuse in schools, the programs may vary, but the content will certainly be infused into secondary schools.

"It's already happening."

It was earlier this year, after suicide touched the rugby league community, the student council asked to be taught the program.

Mr Ford said the request "made perfect sense".

While a discussion about suicide is one adults have historically wanted to shield children from, due to fear about copycat behaviour, Mr Ford said there would be a positive framework to the message.

"It's a sensitive issue," he said.

"Teenagers are very vulnerable to group stereotypes and some can gravitate towards a depressed way of thinking.

"While we must inform the kids, we also must give hope, and show them they can make a difference, there's a reason to live, there's hope and joy.

"If you go back this was not an issue that was canvassed in schools and that probably did a disservice to the students in a lot of ways because this is a perennial issue and probably always will be."

He said suicide and mental health concerns had 'perpetually' been a problem, but noted social media put kids under significant pressure.

"I would say social media magnifies these issues," Mr Ford said.

"Kids have to do things and make mistakes, but when they do that online people don't just forget about it."

He said the school had adopted many other programs, like the Daniel Morcombe student protection program, over the years and found the best way to present to students was to integrate them into lessons.

"When you can present the message in context it's a lot more useful. Individual talks can be useful (for other matters), but it helps students absorb the message when it becomes part of the lesson," he said.

The Numbers

  •  One in 13 Australian children between the ages of 12 to 17 have seriously considered suicide. (National survey by Lifeline, 2015)
  •  Suicide is the leading cause of death for men and woman 15 to 44. (Australian bureau of statistics, 2015)
  • Suicide accounted for over 85,000 years of life lost making it the leading cause of premature death in Australia. (ABS, 2015)

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