Spartan First Mental Wellbeing is an Australian first that is changing lives with its First Nations suicide prevention crisis line.
Currently operating as a 10-week pilot program funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency, the crisis line was launched on Christmas morning.
Since then, it has taken more than 300 calls. Operated by mental health first aid-trained workers, the line is monitored in shifts from 7am-9pm.
But staff also keep their phones nearby throughout the night — effectively providing a 24/7 service.
For Minang Noongar woman Kalisha Krakouer, working at the crisis line means caring for mob in their times of need.
“If someone calls we’ll help them the best we can . . . we help them find out what they need or do a referral,” Ms Krakouer said.
“We’re predominantly suicide prevention but if they call with other issues then we’re going to try our best to explore those issues, and then we’re going to refer them to the services that we think they need.”
Both Krakouer, 28, and fellow crisis line worker, Noongar man Anthony Abraham, 25, have a Certificate IV in Mental Health and have previous experience in the mental health space.
They believe having First Nations responders taking First Nations calls makes the experience culturally safer for mob in distress.
“In a way (callers) are more comfortable with me than another person of a different culture or background,” Mr Abraham said.
“We have a bit more understanding of each other, I think that’s important in mental health.”
Ms Krakouer agreed.
“They definitely feel way more comfortable (knowing we’re First Nations), it just breaks the barrier automatically.”
The crisis line is not only proving to be a huge success with mob, but with external service providers as well.
Since its launch, 17 different services have called on behalf of clients for support or referral.
“The amount of calls that are coming through plus the amount of referrals, even WA Police have referred a lot to us, show it was a much-needed program to get up and going,” Spartan First chief executive Des Headland said.
In the first five weeks of the pilot program, crisis line workers lodged 85 referrals to support services to assist with planning and reduce callers’ psychological distress.
“Let’s do one thing right first . . . show that we’ve been able to help create awareness and save people’s lives and respond to the calls and then we can move forward and try make that a bigger, better process,” Mr Headland said.
Although the NIAA has committed to funding a 10-week pilot, the agency is unable to provide further grants and the Federal funding of the program is set to finish in early March.
“Some Aboriginal Medical Services were seeking reassurance from us that this incredibly important service was going to be ongoing given the limited amount of NIAA funding.
“Luckily for us, (Health Minister) Roger Cook and the WA Government came to the rescue,” Mr Headland said.
To continue the service, WA’s Mental Health Commission has committed almost $200,000 to ensure the service can run until at least June 30.
“The State Government is continuing its commitment to Aboriginal wellbeing by funding the continuation of this pilot helpline,” Mr Cook said.
The Health Minister said the commission will provide Spartan First with $191,000 over 17 weeks to continue operating.
“Through this service, Spartan First have committed to delivering culturally safe psychological support for Aboriginal communities,” Mr Cook said.
“Culturally secure practices specifically recognise and respect the cultural identities of the people accessing the service, which can lead to better outcomes.”
Mr Headland said Spartan First Mental Wellbeing welcomed the funding with open arms.
“We’ve been pushing for so long to prove private Aboriginal-owned businesses can deliver quality and cost-effective services to our communities in our own right or in conjunction with government-controlled and community-controlled service providers,” he said.
“We’re just one of those many First Nations businesses with that will and desire to create change for our people moving forward and if we can save lives while we are doing that all the better.”
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Spartan First Suicide Prevention Crisis Line on 1800 370 747.
By Hannah Cross