Ann-Maree – Founder & President

Hi, my name is Ann-Maree.

I am the Founder and President of the Connected Communities Project.

I was born and raised in Dubbo NSW, and returned to work here after university. I have two young and very busy children and when time permits, I enjoy reading biographies and all things crafty, particularly jewellery making and art.

I have been working as a Psychologist and Suicidologist since 2000 and I am currently completing my PhD in the area of antenatal and postnatal suicidality.

My passion for suicide prevention began when I was employed in my first clinical role on an Acute Care/ Crisis Team. When you are in a role like this, you see that suicide doesn't discriminate and that the impact is far reaching and ever lasting. Back then, I was really struck by the negative attitudes that exist towards those whose lives have been touched by suicide, whether this is those who experience suicidal ideation, attempted suicide or those who have lost a loved one to suicide. I was also concerned by the lack of accurate information that is available to the public. The stigma and isolation really drove me to try and create change in rural areas by starting a dialogue to promote help-seeking behaviours.

Recently I won the 2013 Inaugural Don Ritchie Suicide Prevention Award (Individual Category) which has given me the opportunity to develop a prevention strategy for our area. The Connected Communities Project is a direct result of this award. Whilst we are only just starting off, I am aiming big. I would love to have a fully-operational non-for-profit centre that provides innovative and creative services to reduce rural suicide.

I am interested to hear from all community members and services who would like to be a part of this project.

Ann-Maree Hartley - Ph.D. Candidate

B. Soc. Sci. (Psych), Grad. Dip. Applied Psych. (Hons.), M. Suicidology

Cath – Lived Experience Advocate & Vice President

Hi my name is Cath.

I am the Lived Experience and Community Coordinator of the Connected Communities Project committee.

I was born & have lived in Northern NSW, spent a brief time in Alice Springs, NT but have spent majority of my life in Dubbo which I call home with my young daughter.

I have previously worked in the Disability field for 7yrs and have been involved with mental health for the past 8yrs. Throughout my time while working in mental health I have worked with clients and their families both directly and indirectly, witnessed the discrimination & treatment and have advocated for those with mental illness. I have also been fortunate to witness individual's strength, courage and determination during such dark moments in their lives to come through to a much brighter and positive future. It has been during this work my passion has grown especially in mental health, which led me to start studying Bachelor of Social Work this year. I have also been personally touched by suicide.

I am very fortunate to be asked to be part of change that where we can increase knowledge, reduce the stigma and improve & increase support for everyone touched by suicide for a brighter and positive outlook for everyone.

Jane – Cultural Advocate & Treasurer

Hi, I qualified as a Registered Nurse in 1997 and became a Midwife in 2002. I have enjoyed nursing in places like Mount Isa, Halls Creek and Darwin. For the last 5 years I have worked as a Women's Health Nurse in Dubbo and the surrounding regional towns.

Nicholas – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex (LGBTI) Advocate & Secretary

My name is Nicholas Steepe. At the start of 2012, I began my Diploma of Community Services and Bachelor of Social Work through Charles Sturt University and TAFE Western. As a requirement for TAFE, I undertook a welfare placement at the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW Inc. Personal Helpers and Mentors program. My placement solidified my desire to work in the mental health profession. Also, my own experience with depression and self-harm has made my desire to reduce stigma and assist those suffering to get help stronger. I came out to my friends and family several years ago with mixed responses.