Connect with Your Community
Events are a positive way to connect with community members, inform people about mental health and wellbeing and show that community, peer support and services are there to help.
How to create a community event
A successful event for community suicide prevention needs to be targeted in a way that the people you want to come are more likely to turn up because they feel comfortable. This is why many Suicide Prevention Groups hold barbeques at sporting events or invite speakers with expertise in mental wellbeing to community events. Combining this with coasters of pamphlets will ensure the message reaches the right people.
Where to hold your community event
Who is the target audience? Where will be most geographically accessible? Where will most people feel at ease? Will it be a group of farming men only, farming women only, or both? How can other community groups help your suicide prevention/wellbeing group? Can you link into industry focused groups and share the hosting of an event? Can the local council provide their boardroom for meetings or provide photos of the area that could go into a printed resource like a calendar or cookbook? Can costs be shared (e.g. printing)?
The purpose of your event
There are many ways to host an event. The event you create will be unique to your SPG, as you will know which kind of event will have the most impact for farmers. Ask yourselves these questions:
What is the purpose/s of your event? Is it to raise awareness of mental health issues for everyone? Is it to bring attention to farmer wellbeing in your community? Is to direct people to support networks or create community support? Is your event about sharing stories about distress, help seeking and recovery? Is it about raising funds for mental health and wellbeing initiatives? Is your event about learning about how to talk to someone who is distressed and support services to refer them to? Is your event about connecting with others during challenging times?
Suicide Prevention Groups have held many different types of events—there are so many creative possibilities. Here are some examples to get you thinking:
A music event or festival, barbeque or family fun day
These events may raise awareness of mental health as a place for social connectivity. It is a relaxed space where mental health is not at the forefront of the event, making some people more likely to come and feel comfortable. Contact other SPGs to discuss events they have run.
Lived experience speaker events
A farmer speaking about his lived experience provides an avenue to understand someone’s experience and relate to it. There may be someone in your group who would like to share their experience, or you may know of farmers who regularly speak at SPGs across your region or Australia. Podcast audio of one or more farmers speaking about their lived experience (available from our library) may be used, or our stories about Farmer Joe may be read out to prompt questions and discussion. The film in our library of Riverina farmers speaking about distress is another excellent resource to hear about the experiences of other farmers.
The resources may be shown and then a local speaker, perhaps a health professional or a member of the Suicide Prevention Group, might ask the audience to discuss in small groups or a larger group depending on size. Some prompts for discussion may include: a) how the film made them feel; b) what they might do if they had similar feelings and experiences—where they might go for help; c) how they might help others; d) what information and tools/training do they need to provide peer support?
A panel discussion
Consider showing a film and having a panel—consisting of a health care provider, farmer and, say, stock agent—discuss the film, then open the floor to questions and feedback from the audience. You could use films or podcasts from the Taking Stock library. A panel discussion is a useful way to bring together multiple perspectives and experiences in relation to health, support and recovery. It also enables the audience to direct questions to people with particular experiences and expertise.
Many SPGs have invited well-known speakers like Ben Brooksby (known as ‘The Naked Farmer’) or Mary O’Brien from ‘Are you Bogged Mate?’. Contact Suicide Prevention Groups near you to consider sharing the cost of a guest speaker.
Different ways to structure events
There are many different ways to structure events. Ideas can be sourced from country arts projects, country men’s sheds, community centres, local council project officers or other SPGs.
Consider if the event is best held during a Field Day? Or is it better that the group be smaller to help build social connectivity and give people space to talk and support each other? Arts-based activities or activities involving building/fixing community spaces provide an opportunity for people to work together and talk.
Communication and assistance at the event
- Organise for pamphlets, coasters with QR codes, calendars, local service directories or any other materials to be handed out at the event. People who hand out information should have some basic training in peer support. Speak to your local GP, a local mental health service provider or an organisation like Beyond Blue on how to run a session for volunteers about starting a conversation around, and responding to, mental health.
- Make sure to link a local service provider or GP, a rural financial counsellor or mental health counsellor to the event, wherever possible. Have them introduce themselves and their services.
- Ask local service providers to leave pamphlets and telephone numbers or type some up and have them available. This will mean information is readily at hand after someone leaves an event so they can call if they are distressed or want to talk about how they are feeling.
Communication after the event
Follow up with attendees within a week after an event. Depending on the number of people, do a ring around and ask for feedback on how the event went and give people space to open up to you about how they are feeling.
Organising a community event to build solidarity
Download our guide, which can help you create your own event for your local area and community. Get organised and gather relevant information to produce your own version and help others.