Riverina's Suicide and Support Group calls for volunteers

A former emergency department nurse says telephone counselling isn’t about putting bandaids on the world but is a service so needed. 

Lending an ear: Jewel McKibbin is encouraging others to join the Suicide and Support Group, volunteering to help individuals across the country through their darkest times as part of a 24-seven telephone counselling service.

Lending an ear: Jewel McKibbin is encouraging others to join the Suicide and Support Group, volunteering to help individuals across the country through their darkest times as part of a 24-seven telephone counselling service.

Jewel McKibbin has not only witnessed the trauma of everyday Riverina residents, she has also helped people across the country find a way through their darkest times. 

Mrs McKibbin said across her career, she met a range of people, from all walks of life, who were hurting and she wished she could “just stop and talk to them for longer”.

That’s when Mrs McKibbin joined the (formerly) Griffith Suicide and Support Group as a volunteer telephone counsellor. 

The Wagga woman is now encouraging others to give their time and join the national 24-hour counselling service. 

“It’s such a worthwhile and needed cause,” Mrs McKibbin said. “We receive calls from all sorts of people and we’re a referral service too.”

She said unlike other call-back or nine-to-five services, the Suicide and Support Group had a trained volunteer on the line every hour of the day. 

The callout for volunteers comes ahead of professional coaching sessions for held in Wagga next month. 

The $20 training weekend will be held on the August 5 from 9am to 4pm and August 6 from 9am to 3pm at the Wagga RSL club. 

Mrs McKibbin couldn’t speak more highly of the volunteer-run service, helping rural community members across Australia.

“It’s very, very rewarding,” she said. “(Callers) start as if there is no end in sight … it’s like peeling back the layers and they can be laughing by the end of the conversation.”

Mrs McKibbin said there were many reasons callers picked up the phone, such as loneliness, loss, grief, advice, life changes. She said all they needed was someone to listen and give them hope. 

“It’s terrific,” she said. “It’s just another hand available to someone when they’re in need, irrespective of how old they are or what situation they’re in.”

The group was initially formed in 1998, following a tragic suicide in the Griffith community. Mrs McKibbin said when there was nowhere for anyone to go for support, information or help, a group of individuals decided to do something about it.

“We’re there to listen and to refer them on to someone who can help,” she said. “We’re human ... everyone needs a helping hand every now and then.”

Those interested in joining can call Val on 0408 202 376 or Jewel on 0417 432 798 to join to book a seat at the training session. 

If you or anyone you know is seeking crisis support, call the Suicide and Support Group on 1300 133 911, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.