Safe Haven for people with thoughts of suicide

People experiencing suicidal distress and living in and around Wagga Wagga can now seek support at a new "Safe Haven," instead of struggling alone or heading to their local emergency department. The Safe Haven, located at 7 Yathong Street, is open Friday to Sunday from 2pm to 9pm.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District's Towards Zero Suicides Coordinator, Richard Parks, said the Safe Haven service is warm, welcoming space.

"The Safe Haven provides compassionate, respectful care by peer support workers with a lived experience of suicidality," Richard said.

"Peer workers are uniquely placed to offer understanding and support because they have been in their shoes."

Ready to help: Peer Support Worker Lauren Demaj was part of the design process for Wagga's Safe Haven. Photos: Supplied

Ready to help: Peer Support Worker Lauren Demaj was part of the design process for Wagga's Safe Haven. Photos: Supplied

Lauren Demaj is a Peer Worker at Wagga's Safe Haven and was involved with the process of designing Wagga's Safe Haven.

"The Safe Haven is safe environment where you can talk to someone like myself, who has a lived experience of suicidality or mental illness. It's important for people who come to the Safe Haven to have someone to talk to who understands what they are going through and can relate to how they are feeling," she said.

"I was lucky enough to be part of deciding what we wanted it to look and feel like - the furniture, the colours, music - all those sorts of things.

"We understand the anxiety felt by people who need to seek help and we want to make sure everyone who comes to the Safe Haven is welcomed and invited in and offered options to make them comfortable - whether they want to have a one-on-one chat or just spend some time in the sensory space."

No referral is required to visit the Safe Haven. Anyone can drop in during opening hours. There are no age limitations, however if the person is under 16 years of age, consent to participate will need to be sought from a parent or guardian.

"As a person who has experienced self harm at a young age I know that a space like this would have been helpful to me, to be able to talk to someone who really understood what I was feeling and could make me feel safe," Lauren said.

"Taking that one step to come here - we know how hard that is and we want people to know that you're not alone, we have experienced it too and we are here for you."

The Safe Haven will initially be open Friday to Sunday from 2pm to 9pm, providing an option for support outside of business hours and on weekends. Griffith also has a Safe Haven.

The NSW Government has invested $25.1 million in the Safe Haven initiative, which contributes to the Towards Zero Suicides Premier's Priority.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, seek help immediately by calling 000 or Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or Accessline 1800 800 944 for specialist local mental health services.

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