In 2010, members of Gosford North Rotary created a Young Achievers Program for promising adolescents on the NSW Central Coast. In 2012, these same members participated in a LivingWorks safeTALK presentation delivered by trainers from Lifeline Central Coast which cemented their resolve to make a difference to all young lives on the Central Coast. Thus began a two-pronged project, one for youth advancement and one for youth suicide prevention, jointly named the Gosford North Rotary Save Our Kids from Suicide Project, or SOKS.

SOKS 2020 lifeline pos 01

In the seven years since, Lifeline Central Coast has worked in conjunction with SOKS, jointly seeking to build suicide-safer secondary schools on the Central Coast. Funds raised facilitate delivery of safeTALK presentations, 2-day LivingWorks Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshops, Self-harming Behaviours Awareness modules and, most recently, Mind Your Sports Mates awareness training for young sports people. Such training enables participants to become more aware, alert and armed with appropriate responses for young people who may be at risk.

With over 23,000 secondary school students and almost 2,400 school staff across 36 Central Coast secondary schools, building capacity in the number of trained caregivers means that more young people at risk of self-harm and suicide will be identified, they will be more likely to have their invitations for help recognised, and thus more likely to get the help they need in staying safe.

Launch of Mind Your Sports Mates Project - L-R: Lester Pearson OAM, Chair SOKS Team, Mark Leary, SOKS Team member and Gosford North Rotary President, Robert Sams, Executive Director, Lifeline Direct, Dr June Anderson, Training Manager, Lifeline Central Coast, SOKS Team members Lance Harrigan, Peter Hamilton and Warren Mills.
Launch of Mind Your Sports Mates Project - L-R: Lester Pearson OAM, Chair SOKS Team, Mark Leary, SOKS Team member and Gosford North Rotary President, Robert Sams, Executive Director, Lifeline Direct, Dr June Anderson, Training Manager, Lifeline Central Coast, SOKS Team members Lance Harrigan, Peter Hamilton and Warren Mills.

A proud partnership; saving lives

Gosford North Rotary Save Our Kids from Suicide (SOKS) Project Team has been successfully assisting Central Coast communities reduce young people’s life-threatening behaviours for the past seven years. SOKS’ focus remains on suicide prevention which is more specific than mental health awareness and well-being. SOKS has been - and continues to be - determined to take practical measures to assist young people struggling with life’s issues who may consider suicide as a solution. SOKS’ objective is to teach the skills to be able to identify and approach a young person who may be contemplating suicide.

SOKS has sponsored more than 4,000 local caregivers over the past seven years in gaining the skills of suicide prevention and intervention. Post-delivery research with participants has determined that, as a result of this training, 682 lives have been kept safe from life threatening behaviours and they are only the ones we know about.

Suicide prevention training has been delivered into 34 of the 36 secondary schools on the Central Coast. Our ultimate goal is to create as many suicide-safer secondary schools as possible, enabling us to then successfully deliver suicide prevention training to their Year 11 students. As one student said of the training, “Everyone should get the chance to know how to potentially save someone’s life.”

SOKS’ youth suicide prevention goals are three-fold:

  1. to continue to deliver our suicide prevention programs to schools and communities on the Central Coast
  2. to build suicide-safe secondary schools with a high quota of trained staff and parents
  3. to then be able to deliver suicide prevention training to senior students
From left: Robert Sams, Dr June Anderson and Lester Pearson OAM
From left: Robert Sams, Dr June Anderson and Lester Pearson OAM

An ongoing mission to Save Our Kids

Some students offer valuable reflection on their participation in the SOKS Project.
Selected Year 11 students at St Joseph’s Catholic College participating in LivingWorks safeTALK, the suicide prevention awareness presentation that has been part of the school’s proactive work in SKILLS (Supporting Kids in Living Life Safely). St Joseph’s earned recognition from LivingWorks International based in Canada for being an exemplary role model in the education sector.
Selected Year 11 students at St Joseph’s Catholic College participating in LivingWorks safeTALK, the suicide prevention awareness presentation that has been part of the school’s proactive work in SKILLS (Supporting Kids in Living Life Safely). St Joseph’s earned recognition from LivingWorks International based in Canada for being an exemplary role model in the education sector.

The SOKsTeam recognises that this Project is not short term. To continue this endeavour, Gosford North Rotary SOKs team members have pledged to raise the necessary funds to cover the ongoing costs of free training for secondary school staff and community organisation youth workers on the Central Coast.

Central Coast Citizen of the Year 2018, Lester Pearson

Lester Pearson OAM
Lester Pearson OAM

Lester Pearson is a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal 2020 for his work as chairman of the Gosford North Rotary Save Our Kids from Suicide (SOKS) Prevention Project. In conjunction with members of the SOKS Project Team and in partnership with Lifeline Central Coast’s training division, Lester’s service to youth and community since 2013 has resulted in 658 lives kept safe from suicide on the Central Coast.

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