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Osher Gunsberg: A Matter of Life and Death ( ATOM Study Guide)

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In Australia, nine people die every day from suicide. Take a moment to consider what that means, the toll of human anguish and suffering that lies behind that terrible number. Over 3000 desperate Australians every year feeling that there is no other way of resolving their problems. This crisis urgently needs our attention. Within the statistics and the data on suicide lies a whole world of inequity and misery: mental illness, trauma, child abuse, homelessness, incarceration, family breakdown, poverty, Indigenous dispossession, addiction, loneliness, grief, isolation, disability, unemployment … every social and emotional problem you can think of is a factor in the suicide rate, and has contributed to the despair that leads individuals to make this tragic decision.

The landmark feature-length documentary, Osher Günsberg: A Matter of Life and Death, explores Australia's suicide crisis and investigates how new science, innovative thinking and technology could help reduce the suicide rate. This is a topic that will touch us all. It connects to broader themes around health, education and community. How do we respond to suffering and despair? How can our systems adapt to better offer people the compassion and care they require?

Osher reflects with great candour on his own mental health experiences and explores what is being done across the country to try to make a difference. A Matter of Life and Death is harrowing in parts, but it is also uplifting and inspiring. There is no simple solution to this complex problem and the film does not shy away from its scale and difficulty; but there are so many compassionate, dedicated people committed to making a difference. The first step towards change is awareness. As Osher puts it boldly, 'We have to have the conversation. We have to acknowledge it, because you cannot fix a problem if you don't acknowledge that it exists. So here we are. Let's talk about it.' Start where you are, start now.

Curriculum Links:

In terms of Key Learning Areas, this film could be integrated into Senior Secondary Health & Psychology; Middle to Senior Secondary Social & Emotional Learning; & Respectful Relationships/SEL.

As part of a whole school commitment to student mental health and wellbeing, it could be used as a stand-alone, focused unit of work.

It also has value at a tertiary level in Medicine, Social Work, Counseling, Paramedics, Psychology and Education, and it should be mandatory viewing as part of training for all volunteer phone counselors working in this space (Lifeline, Blue Knot, Beyond Blue, Butterfly Foundation, etc.)

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