Local mortgage broker John Whitten is also the director of suicide intervention organisation Project WE CARE.
Local mortgage broker John Whitten is also the director of suicide intervention organisation Project WE CARE.

Suicide prevention critical in COVID-19 wake

A LOCAL mortgage broker is encouraging the Gladstone community to contact his suicide intervention organisation and inquire about free courses in the wake of COVID-19.

Project WE CARE commenced 10 years ago out of concern about Central Queensland’s suicide rate, which is twice the national average. It is an initiative of the Gladstone Rotary Club.

Project WE CARE began when its director John Whitten met a man at a pub selling raffle tickets for Beyond Blue.

“My mate and I won a seafood platter in the raffle, so we invited him to sit down and it turned out that all three of us had been affected by suicides,” Mr Whitten said.

“We decided that we had to do something about suicide, because no one else seemed to be doing anything.

“Now we put 1000 high school students in the Gladstone region a year through a three-hour suicide-safe talk and train 45 people a year in a two-day suicide intervention program.”

Project WE CARE is a volunteer organisation that has been funded by Rio Tinto and UGL over the past two years.

Mr Whitten said the greatest challenge it faces is getting people to attend courses.

“There are so many times I see feedback from participants saying, ‘why weren’t we more aware that these courses are on?’” he said.

“We can seat 20 people at a course as of next month, which is down on a usual 30 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“During the three-hour training course, we teach people how to spot the signs of suicide, how to talk to them about it and then how to get them to someone who can help.”

Mr Whitten said Project WE CARE was unique in several ways.

“It is the only community organisation in Queensland conducting suicide intervention training free of charge and is the go-to trainer for numerous organisations in the Gladstone region for suicide intervention training,” he said.

The next Project WE CARE suicide intervention course will be held in Gladstone on Monday, July 1.

Bookings can be made by calling 0410 433 919.



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