Jill Fisher has been awarded for her work in the suicide and bereavement area.
Jill Fisher has been awarded for her work in the suicide and bereavement area. Warren Lynam

Awarded for survival

LIKE countless Queensland parents who have seen their child fall through society's cracks, there was a time when Jill Fisher feared her "baby" would not make it.

But earlier this month in Beijing, she stood before her peers at the International Association for Suicide Prevention World Congress to be recognised for her program's inspirational and pivotal survival story.

Ms Fisher, the acclaimed Tewantin-based United Synergies StandBy national co-ordinator, was presented with the Farberow Award - the highest honour in the field of after-suicide care.

She became only the second Australian to receive the gong, at an event that has been described as the Academy Awards of the suicide prevention and postvention fields.

Ms Fisher was the original project officer of the world-renowned StandBy Response Service, which provides 24-hour assistance for people bereaved by suicide, when it was launched at Tewantin in 2002.

After receiving the Farberow Award at a gala dinner, she must have given some thought to how close it came to falling apart.

"It's (StandBy) had a rough journey," she said yesterday.

"There was a period of time when StandBy fell between the cracks. It wasn't funded.

"But the community came together in a way that I had never seen before."

The program not only survived but flourished after securing ongoing Federal Government funding through the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

At the time, Ms Fisher was thought to be the only postvention professional in the country employed through government funding. She now considers StandBy to be the largest government-funded postvention program in Australia, employing more than 100 staff nationwide.

Ms Fisher said a recent independent economic evaluation of StandBy determined it saved society $600 a person through its work.

She said the saving was achieved through a range of initiatives, including co-ordinating community responses to suicide, rather than setting up counsellor services, and formulating community strategies in response to suicide.

"One of our board members noted that our rate of growth is exceeding BHP. It's amazing in these times, where we have all sorts of economic problems and challenges."

As Ms Fisher aptly put it, "StandBy is a very small investment for a very big result."

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