A legion of ‘Gatekeepers’ will help protect communities across NSW, with more than 10,000 volunteers in high-risk populations and industries being trained in suicide prevention.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the NSW Nationals in Government were proud to deliver the first initiative of the Towards Zero Suicides program with a $2.8 million investment in community training over three years.

“Around 17 people die by suicide every week in NSW, which is why we want people working in high-risk industries and professions to step forward to be trained as Gatekeepers,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Every precious life lost to suicide is a tragedy that has a devastating ripple effect across families and the whole community. The statistics in the bush are even worse and that’s why more than half of all Gatekeepers will be in rural and regional communities.”

NSW Nationals Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said Gatekeepers play a critical role in community-based suicide prevention because they help connect workmates, friends and family to professional support.

“We know that over 40 per cent of people who die by suicide have not reached out for professional support. Gatekeeper training gives people the skills to recognise the signs that someone is at risk of suicide and the confidence to start a conversation with them about how to access support,” Mrs Taylor said.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) staff are being prioritised to receive Gatekeeper training given the nature of their work and the confronting scenes they deal with.

“By having Gatekeepers across the RFS, we will create a safety net of peers who really understand what their fellow firefighters are going through,” Mrs Taylor said.

With one in three front-line responders experiencing high, or very high, psychological distress, NSW RFS Manager for Mental Health Services Paul Scott said the training investment is welcome.

“People working in emergency services are exposed to some of life’s most challenging events; and if feelings of distress and trauma go unchecked, it may lead to suicide. This training has helped RFS peer support workers to more effectively engage with our people and better appreciate, and anticipate, the pressures they may be under,” Mr Scott said.

Other high-risk populations targeted include female apprentices in construction, family lawyers, Aboriginal communities, men between 18 and 35 years, veterinarians and LGBTI communities.

Gatekeeper training will be provided by 13 organisations with expertise in engaging specific at-risk communities.

Towards Zero Suicides is a NSW Premier’s Priority investing $87 million over three years in new suicide prevention initiatives.

More information about the Gatekeeper program can be found at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/gatekeeper.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, please seek help immediately by calling 000 or one of these services:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511