Reducing the risk of suicide
Central Coast based Iris Foundation is running programs and campaigns to reduce stigma, connect people, foster hope, and build resilience.
Co-founded in 2006 by Bev Baldwin and Dawn Hooper, following the loss of Bev’s granddaughter to suicide, Iris Foundation’s goal is to reduce the possibility of any family going through the devastating crisis and loss that others have endured. In its early years, the foundation focussed on generating funds to support established local charities working in this area. The common philosophy uniting these organisations was that early intervention prevents suffering and even saves enormous amounts of time and money.
“Everyone knows that if you leave a dripping tap long enough, you will find yourself with an empty tank. We wanted to do something to support people so they could avoid reaching that crisis point.”
By 2016, Iris Foundation had grown into a standalone charity delivering its own, distinct services. All activities are underpinned by three defining concepts: resilience, hope and connections. These have been identified by mental health professionals as key protective factors against poor mental health and suicide.
Building resilience, which is the ability to ‘bounce back’ effectively from trauma, stress and setbacks, has been the basis of the development and delivery of their programs, in particular the “Cool Connections in School” initiative. This program supports children in Years 5 and 6 through a series of creative projects and group discussions and has proven to boost positive self-worth and generate a sense of connectedness amongst attending students. Cool Connections has expanded significantly: from two pilot programs in its first year to 21 programs being rolled out in 2018. Similar programs tailored to adults and teenagers have also been developed and delivered both on the Central Coast and in Newcastle.
Giving hope is at the core of the foundation’s suicide awareness campaign, Tree of Dreams. In the lead-up to World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, the campaign offered local people a chance to share messages of hope and support for family, friends and colleagues impacted by suicide and loss. This included the river reflections event where lanterns bearing messages of memories and love were floating down river.
Positive connections are essential to our feelings of belonging and selfworth. Iris Foundation continues to evolve alongside the needs of the local community and supported the development last year of the Community and Business Women’s Network (CBWN) which links local residents and businesswomen for professional and social support. Alongside CBWN, the annual Women’s Resilience Awards were held in March 2019, recognising Central Coast women who have shown resilience, strength and hope. “We recognise the impact of suicide in our community, but also its strength, the value in each and every one of us and the known protective factors of resilience, connectedness and hope,” says Bev. “In everything we do, we are taking what’s wrong to what’s strong. Taking the strength in every one of us to build a stronger more connected community.”
For more information please visit www.irisfoundation.org.au or refer to Iris Foundation’s Facebook page.