EMERITUS Professor Jim Psaros says young people having suicidal thoughts may see their feelings like a wave.
“It looks scary, but once it crashes over you, you think ‘It’s okay now’,” he said.
“You can be going through the depths of despair and feel there is no answer, but even talking to someone for 30 minutes can make a world of difference.”
Mr Psaros has been involved for more than 20 years with the CommStrength Foundation, a Hunter-based community charity that seeks to prevent youth suicide by providing crisis support.
He has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through charitable initiatives.
“I’m very, very proud but also a bit sheepish,” he said.
“Father John Macpherson is the person doing all the hard work - he’s 95 per cent of it, I’m about two per cent and another committee member Kim Eather has done just as much as I have.”
Mr Psaros, the former deputy head of the University of Newcastle’s faculty of business and law, became involved with the charity in the 1990s after Father Macpherson suggested recording a cassette tape of inspirational messages and soothing music for teens going through crisis.
He donated and was invited to sit on the project committee, but the funding goal wasn’t met.
Instead, the project morphed into Father Macpherson providing a listening ear and informal but immediate support to young people in crisis. He also refers kids to other services.
“The mental health system is stretched and workers can have 12 clients a day,” Mr Psaros said.
“Kids can be told to go and see a doctor in 10 days. But Father John can spend time talking to them from 11pm to 2am if they need, for as long as they need, in a non-judgmental way. He’s able to give them time.
“He can go with them to children’s court, in going to James Fletcher, make awkward calls on their behalf.
“He can be a crutch at crucial times. He’s not political or religious in the context of the support he offers.”
The foundation holds events to raise around $10,000 each year for Father Macpherson’s petrol, car insurance, travel expenses and phone bills.
“There are no overheads, no salaries, every single penny goes to preventing youth suicide. We say, if we save one life, it’s all worth it.”
CommStrength’s website says it has helped more than 3000 people at risk of suicide since 1994.
The second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, which involved interviews with more than 6000 families between 2013 and 2014, found about one in thirteen 12 to 17 year olds had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.