Building social connections

Daniela Kohut from Hillside Community Centre.

By Tate Papworth

Isolation is known to be a risk factor when it comes to suicide and that’s why neighbourhood houses across communities are striving to increase help build social connections.

Melton council’s community learning and activation officer Daniela Kohut has a leading role at the Hillside neighbourhood house and says they’re a real hub for networking.

“So much comes from them. Often people come to join a program – something like yoga and from that they get to know other people in the class, build friendships and support each other,“ she said.

“It also gives them the confidence to do other things – we offer all sorts of activities here, singing, art, a walking group and more.

“We see a lot of people building friendships and it’s great to watch them grow. They pick each other up, and there’s real sense of community.“

Neighbourhood houses offer a range of activities for all ages, but Ms Kohut says not everyone has to join a class.

“It’s also about providing a point of contact. People who feel isolated can come to the house.

“We find people that come, build relationships with the staff. That can lead to a conversation about how they’re feeling.

“Being with other people also reduces social isolation and improves mood.“

Education and information around mental health issues is also readily available.

“A big part of our role is to raise awareness around issues… people might not be coming in to take part in activity, we’re an information hub as well.“

“It’s a really important aspect of the work – we want people to feel confident that this is a safe place to start a conversation, to feel confident to come to one of our workers and tell them they’re struggling.“

“We can then provide them with information, refer them to a service, or even join one of our classes.“

For more information on the services visit:

The North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network is offering a short online course – QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) – designed to help people recognise if someone they know is at risk of suicide.

To access the training, visit:
Use the code PBT.
If you or anyone you know needs help contact: Lifeline: 13 11 14 or
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or