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Newcastle Permanent employee’s heartfelt gesture to honour brother-in-law

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The generosity of a Hunter-based financial institution’s staff knows no bounds.

Following a recent gratuity of more than $13,300 to the Black Dog Institute, Newcastle Permanent’s CommunityAssist Employee Donation Program surpassed a major milestone.

The initiative, which started in 1997, hit the $1 million mark, benefitting numerous worthy charities over the past 25 years.

And, the latest funding windfall will aid the second trial of LifeBuoy, an app designed to help young people manage their suicidal thoughts and distress in daily life.

The Black Dog Institute donation came about from a nomination by mobile banking manager Mark Iuliano, who wanted to make a contribution to the organisation following the death of his brother-in-law, Gus, in March.

“Gus had a mental health condition but had been working through things,” he said.

“But, in March, it must have got to a point where it got too much – and he saw no way forward.

“Gus was 38 when he died, with three children aged 18 and younger, so it’s been really difficult for his kids, as well as his sisters, his parents, and his family and friends.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, approximately 3,000 people die by suicide annually in Australia, with it being the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 44.

Shortly after Gus passed away, nominations for Newcastle Permanent’s CommunityAssist Employee Donation Program opened.

Each year, staff donate about $60,000 via payroll deductions and nominate charities they believe deserve support.

Employees then vote to select four every 12 months to receive funding.

Mr Iuliano saw a donation to Black Dog Institute as an opportunity to commemorate his brother-in-law’s life.

“Gus must have reached out to them in the past, because one birthday he asked for donations to Black Dog Institute instead of buying him presents,” he explained.

“So, it seemed like the best way to honour his memory.

“I’ve always contributed to the CommunityAssist Program and while I’ve voted, I’d never nominated before.

“But, this time, I just thought I’d put Black Dog Institute out there and see what happened.

“I let my colleagues know what Black Dog Institute was and why I was nominating them, and they were all supportive, which was great.

“Being able to say to my partner that we were able to do this, we did it for Gus, then to be able to let his sisters, mum and dad know that the organisation I work for is going to donate this money – and it’s a substantial amount – I’m just really grateful for the support from my colleagues and the business as a whole.

“I just hope this is a little positive to come out of it.”

The money will go towards the continued testing of the LifeBuoy app in a new Australian trial, which will help researchers at the Black Dog Institute confirm that it is safe and effective therapeutic tool to help people self-manage suicidal thoughts.

“The big-heartedness we have seen from Newcastle Permanent employees is exceptional and greatly appreciated,” head of partnerships Tasman Cassim said.

“The funding will be used to cover trial costs associated with recruiting participants, and financing lived experience youth advisors to help the research team understand what the results mean for young people experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“Involving lived experience will help us to get key findings out to the community and young people in ways that best support understanding and uptake of digital tools, such as LifeBuoy, by those in need.”

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