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Custodians of Hope: Supporting the Sucidal Person

Identifying suicide risk is only one aspect of working with the suicidal person. The increasing demand on mental health services means that front line workers are often having to provide ongoing support for those assessed as not being in imminent danger of suicide.

A recent Coroner's finding has highlighted the need for counsellors in private practice, NGO mental health support organisations and front-line health and social services to be up to date in their competency and capability to engage with the suicidal client and to have good referral processes in place.

Workshop participants will explore a range of engagement, support and safe containment outcomes for supporting the suicidal person post the risk assessment process. These outcomes can be applied to any counselling, psychotherapeutic or support model. The outcomes are grouped into:

Manaakitanga, Anchoring, Kōrero, Anchoring, Illumination, Interrupting the suicidal thought, Invitation to Live, Custodian of Hope, Restoring of Wairua, Strategies for coping.

“Supportive approaches addresses those factors that distorts, depletes, or suppresses the suicidal person’s mauri / lifeforce, and reawakens the enablers that nurtures and sustains it and restoring of the person’s wairua.”

Also covered are legal and professional practice obligations and implications when working with suicidal people - scope of practice, duty of care, confidentiality and privacy.

This workshop is of value for those working in counselling, psychotherapy or social support settings who have a good understanding of counselling and/or mental health support/ recovery principles and processes. While the workshop is focused primarily around non-mental health settings, the workshop content is also relevant to workers in mental health settings.

Topics covered:

Legal obligations and implications - Duty of Care, Confidentiality and Privacy Act

Including whānau and significant others as part of the support team

Overview of the phenomenon of suicide and the 'suicidal moment'

Key principles in engaging and supporting the suicial person

Custodians of Hope model

Coping vs Safety plan


What others have said about the workshop

"The easy to understand concepts and the model of support reduced my anxiety about working with a suicidal person. I leave far more confident and trusting of my skills to be an effective support” AOD Counsellor

“The many examples you shared from your work enhanced my learning and made the application of the model relevant to my work” ACC Counsellor

“Insightful, informative and passionate presentation along with your humour engaged me for the whole day.” Psychologist

“Your cultural sensitivity and drawing on Māori understandings of wellbeing made the workshop relevant to my practice.” Counsellor


Barry has proven leadership over 30 years at local, national and international levels in using community initiatives and strength-based approaches to improve individual and community wellbeing and the prevention of suicide. He has extensive experience in the development, implementation and evaluation of programmes at the local and national level, especially creating collaborative partnerships to prevent or respond to suicide.

Barry's insights are informed by a comprehensive and critical understanding of the research and latest thinking in both the national and international suicide prevention sector. Drawing also on his 30 years of engaging and supporting suicidal people from different cultures, age groups, sexualities and genders he offers practical and time proven approaches to providing safe containment and therapeutic support to those experience acute suicidality.

As a health sociologist Barry offers an unique insight into the evolving phenomenon of suicide in the New Zealand context and the critical social and cultural determinant that have influenced it, insights that very few others trainers or training programs in this country could provide. The workshop is enriched by the learnings from Barry's own lived experience of depression and suicidality and his pathway to recovery.

In 2016 he was awarded the NSW Mental Health Commissioner Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to mental wellbeing and suicide prevention.

After a number of years overseas, Barry has returned to New Zealand both passionate and enthused to make a contribution to effective and evidence-based suicide prevention activity.