✦ ECLIPSE is a group for adults who have survived a suicide attempt
An article from Lifeline in support for Mental Health
“Suicide” can be a hard word to say, let alone form the basis for a topic of conversation. Lifeline Mid Coast offers a new peer support network for adults who have survived a suicide attempt regardless of whether it was recent or in the past. In the Eclipse group, suicide is the top of conversation.
In 2016, the Eclipse group was created and piloted by Lifeline Mid-Coast in collaboration with Professor Myfanwy Maple and her research team from the University of New England, Lifeline Research Foundation and Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Centre, Los Angeles. With the positive feedback from participants, the program is now being rolled out across the national Lifeline network.
What’s so important about this group is that it provides an opportunity to meet and talk with others who have survived a suicide attempt, providing participants with skills and tools that may assist in coping with feeling and thoughts of suicide to stay safe in the future.
The support group is closed for the duration of eight weeks and is fully confidential. Participants all start at the same time and complete the eight weeks together, making it more comfortable to share personal stories. It is important for participants to attend all group sessions.
The group shares the additional purpose of developing research regarding support for those considering suicide through the Lifeline Research Foundation and the University of New England Participation for research into suicide prevention.
Kelly Saidey the Suicide Prevention Manager from Lifeline Mid Coast commenced the program and still runs it to this day.
Kelly, can you tell us a bit about your experience regarding The Eclipse Program?
I began working with Eclipse three years ago. I was very fortunate to inherit the initial program from my predecessor Leeann Foord. At that stage the Eclipse group was running twice a year face to face. It is a huge honour to sit in the safe space of Eclipse to listen and support participants as it takes a lot of courage for them to join the group. The Eclipse group is an eight-week psychosocial support group that has different topics each week such as how to safely talk about suicide, how to give and receive support, what causes suicidal thoughts and how to cope with the thoughts. We also talk about how to find “hope” again and where to find support and services. I facilitate the group alongside our Lived Experience of Suicide Attempt Peer Workers and Co Facilitators. Each of our Co Facilitator’s have had their own experience of suicide attempts and mental health issues. As the participants hear the Co Facilitators stories; their anxiety decreases, and they feel they are in a safe place to talk honestly without being judged. I enjoy every aspect of working with Eclipse, whether it is sitting and supporting participants, working alongside Peer Worker Co Facilitators, or providing and receiving feedback with the researchers. It is very rewarding to have participants come each week to Eclipse, seeing them become more comfortable and confident to talk more as time goes on. Just recently we had a participant go into crisis and become homeless; all the participants asked if they could help and bought food and money to help him while he was in emergency accommodation. Seeing people who struggle with their own mental health each day – help another participant that has gone into crisis is just so inspiring and uplifting. They become a little safe community for each other. Over the past year, we have facilitated four Eclipse groups face to face and four groups online. Last year, we ran a group up in Kempsey which showed us that Eclipse is very adaptable to different communities and can go anywhere.
How are your participants doing now? How do you measure the results?
Most of our participants stay connected with us. Some participants come and do the group just once and then they use the skills that they have learnt to adapt back into life and return to work. We have many participants who come back and complete another two or three cycles of Eclipse. Participants like to return for more cycles as they want to keep connected and explore the topics we cover even further. We have had participants go on to train in Mental Health First Aid, Family and Domestic Violence and we have two Eclipse participants that are Telephone Crisis Support Workers for Lifeline Mid Coast. We currently have two past Eclipse Participants studying Certificate 1V in Mental Health Peer Work at TAFE. Some of our Eclipse Participants became part of our local Lived Experience of Suicide Advisory group in collaboration with the Mid North Coast Local Health District. This Lived Experience Advisory Group trained with a national organisation called “Roses in the Ocean” which trains people with lived experience of suicide on how to share their story safely. The Advisory group works with the hospital on local suicide prevention initiatives from NSW Health.
We measure the results for Eclipse through our research team consisting of myself, researchers from the Lifeline Research Foundation and the University of New England. There are several different aspects we measure of participants, which includes recording participants health, desire and intent to suicide, interpersonal needs, resilience, suicide coping and suicidal attribution scales. We measure the participants week one and week eight of the group; then again one, six and 12 months after the group. We follow participants up as we are wanting to measure the lasting effects of the group. So far, the research is indicating that participants are more likely to reach out for help if they feel connected, that their resilience is increasing and that their sense of burdensomeness is decreasing. I am looking forward to the final report from this ongoing pilot being published next year. The research is completely anonymous and voluntary.
What is the history behind the program?
Nine years ago, one of our local community members Lea Harvey (suicide attempt survivor who lives with chronic suicidal thoughts and ideations) attended a community forum on suicide prevention and felt compelled that things need to change; that our community needed more support for people that had survived suicide attempts, have daily thoughts of suicide, and live with the ongoing shame and stigma associated with their attempts. Lea very bravely knocked on our CEO’s (Catherine Vaara) door to talk and ask about a suicide attempters support group. Catherine listened to Lea and acted. At the time, there was no suicide attempters support group in Australia. Catherine, Leeann Foord (my predecessor), Lea and the local Port Macquarie Suicide Prevention Network researched and found the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Centre in Los Angeles. The Didi Hirsch Centre had developed a well-researched world’s best practice eight-week psychosocial support group curriculum for facilitators. Lifeline Mid Coast worked closely with the Lifeline Australia Research Foundation, University of New England, and Didi Hirsch Los Angeles to begin the first Eclipse pilot group here in Port Macquarie. Lea went on to complete her Certificate III in Community Services, Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work at TAFE as well as all the training offered to her by Lifeline and thankfully is still currently a co facilitator of Eclipse. Catherine and I visited the Didi Hirsch Los Angeles Centre in 2019 and were the first international facilitators to train with them. Didi Hirsch now trains facilitators for lifeline in Australia via zoom training sessions. The Eclipse Program is now offered in Macarthur, Perth, Harbour to Hawkesbury, Forster, Central Coast and Tamworth areas.
How is the research being utilised?
The research is being utilised in many ways. First and foremost, the research is centred around the participants as they give us weekly feedback on how the group works for them, what suggestions they have, any modifications and anything they feel should not be in the curriculum. This feedback is sent on to the researchers to write up as recommendations to implement into future groups. The research has been written up in several research articles and reports to date - one report entitled "They can only talk themselves out of it if they’re talking” was prepared in June 2020 for the National Suicide Prevention Adviser and National Suicide Prevention Taskforce for the Prime Minister’s office. The Eclipse Research was presented at the National Suicide Prevention Australia’s conference in 2018 and 2021. The Eclipse research is being presented at the World Suicide Prevention International Congress in September 2021. Eclipse was identified in 2019 by the NSW Mental Health Commission to be presented to the State Parliament. Our research team worked hard with the NSW Mental Health Commission to facilitate the first “Eclipse online” pilot. We delivered Eclipse online to four groups with the research being used for the NSW Mental Health Commission to develop a “best practice” Eclipse Online Facilitators guide to be used state-wide.
If you have attempted suicide and would like to join the Eclipse group, please give Kelly a call on 6581 2800 or email email@example.com
Thank you so much for your time today Kelly, thank you for all the life saving work you do at Lifeline Mid Coast.
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