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A free initiative supporting schools to respond to suicide

3 min read

Suicide is a leading cause of death for young people under 25 years in Australia. Representing 31 per cent of all deaths in young people aged 15-17 years, suicide causes rippling impacts across families and communities.  

Research estimates that more than 10 million Australians have been impacted by suicide. Yet suicide remains a subject that people find difficult to talk about. This week, experts from across Australia are coming together to discuss best-practice responses to suicide prevention.   

One new initiative is seeking to support young people affected by suicide. The Seasons for Life initiative, delivered by MacKillop Seasons, seeks to build the capacity within schools to support students and their families when a suicide or other major loss event occurs within their community.  

Built on the 28-year evidence base of the change, loss and grief program Seasons for Growth, the Seasons for Life initiative provides training for nominated school staff to provide small-group grief and loss education sessions with young people impacted by suicide. The school staff are provided with ongoing coaching support by a change, loss and grief team of professionals.   

Previous evaluations of Seasons for Growth have highlighted the value of the program for early intervention and postvention work with young people in communities impacted by suicide, with Seasons for Life addressing this gap.   

To date, over 556 schools nationally have received components of the Seasons for Life initiative. One school, St Patrick’s in Brisbane’s Shorncliffe, has seen the impact of the initiative on the well-being of the school community.  

“St. Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe wholeheartedly endorses the Seasons for Growth program,” said Darren Kearney, Dean of Students at St Patrick’s.  

“It has significantly benefited our community by bolstering resilience and emotional wellbeing among our youth. It has been our goal to train all House Deans in this program reaffirming our dedication to developing a nurturing educational atmosphere.   

“We advocate for its adoption by all school pastoral care professionals,” said Kearney.  

Tim Chugg, Inclusive Education Consultant at Independent Schools Tasmania recently attended the Seasons for Growth two-day training in Tasmania and praised the initiative,   

“I feel like Seasons for Growth will contribute to a healthier Tasmania.”  

MacKillop Seasons’ Program Manager, Fiona McCallum, says Seasons for Life provides schools with wrap-around support for students, adult carers and school staff.   

“This program, which is provided free to Australian secondary schools, will support young people in small peer groups to learn knowledge and skills to strengthen the emotional well-being of young people and support them to manage experiences of change, loss and grief. Critically, it will help build the capacity and confidence of family and school staff directly supporting young people. “ 

“The funding support from the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program is a critical in ensuring every secondary school across Australia that might benefit from the Seasons for  Growth programs and wraparound support, will be able to access these along with training and ongoing support.” 

The Seasons for Life program is overseen by a national Advisory Group and is being evaluated by the University of New England’s Manna Institute.   

“Programs that can support young people through particularly difficult life events, such as suicide bereavement, are important in reducing distress and preventing suicidal thinking and actions occurring in those who have experienced significant losses,” said Manna Institute Director, Professor Myfanwy Maple. 

“Through our broad evaluation of the Seasons for Life Initiative, we will be talking with young people and those around them to ascertain whether this initiative can achieve these outcomes in addition to the implementation of a nationwide program in schools.”   

Seasons for Growth was created by Prof Anne Graham, Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University; and is provided by MacKillop Family Services.  

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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