Large donation boosts Hope Bereavement in its Support After Suicide program

Local Freemasons have donated $112,700 to Geelong's Hope Bereavement Care to help in its ‘Support After Suicide' program.

Members of the Freemasons Victoria men's fraternity made the presentation in Geelong on Wednesday to Dr Bernie Jenner who leads a team offering information, support and counselling to people grieving the death of a child, an unexpected death of an adult, and those experiencing loss after suicide.

Rodney Lavin, Chairman of Freemasons Victoria Foundation, said that the grant would help Hope in its suicide bereavement counselling, referral service, group-based support, and consultation.

This continues the financial support given by Freemasons to Hope since its inception three years ago. SAS Geelong has experienced significant increases in demand during the COVID pandemic.

“COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of many of us as well as reducing the capacity to utilise many of the ‘natural' supports we have in place such as attendance at clubs and social events, as well as contact with family and friends,” Mr Lavin said.

“This is particularly true for people who are grieving, where there is a disruption to the process of attending funerals when there is a death and attending Hope grief groups.”

Six young men have died by suicide across Geelong schools since the beginning of COVID-19.

“These and other suicide deaths have left thousands of people bereaved with decreased mental health and increased suicide risk, as well as families, schools and the Geelong community.”

Referrals from the Bellarine-Otway region to Hope have increased considerably over the past 12 months. Some of the funds will be used for community education and suicide prevention. The funds will allow for Hope to extend some of its non-traditional support models.

Hope said that the important donation will contribute towards bereavement staff, community development, partnership staff, group and operational costs.

Local Freemason, Bob Pullin, who is Bellarine-Otway District Co-Ordinator, said that the donation follows a contribution in the past month at Mortlake to the Let's Talk Foundation, which works at breaking mental health stigma, and focuses on an early intervention approach, particularly in south-west Victoria.

Mr Lavin said that Freemasons Victoria Foundation donated about $2 million annually to charities and community projects across the state. There are 7600 Freemasons in Victoria who meet at 240 Lodges at locations including Apollo Bay, Beeac, Camperdown, Colac, Geelong, Lara, Mortlake, Portarlington, Queenscliff, Timboon, Torquay and Warrnambool.

Hope Bereavement chief Dr Bernie Jenner receives the $112,700 cheque from Freemasons Foundation Chairman Rodney Lavin in Geelong on Wednesday (26 May).

The $112,700 cheque was presented to Geelong's Hope Bereavement by Freemasons Victoria Foundation on Wednesday. Pictured (from left): Dr Bernie Jenner, Rodney Lavin, Neil Cripps, John Patterson, Pam Virgona, Danny Keating, Catriona Barnett and Bill Lodge.

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