The Shed in Mt Druitt, is a drop in centre for people at risk of suicide, originally a space for Aboriginal men in distress, now open to anyone who comes.
It is based on the research on the social determinants of health, more specifically, the determinants of distress and suicide; the Shed links people to the services of which they are most in need.
The thinking on the social determinants of health underpins much of progressive practice in public health. One of the great proponents of this research is Sir Michael Marmot (Professor Sir Michael Marmot MBBS, MPH, PhD, FRCP, FFPHM, FMedSci. Director of the International Institute for Society and Health. MRC Research Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College, London.
Michael Marmot has led a research group on health inequalities for the past 30 years. He is Principal Investigator of the Whitehall Studies of British civil servants, investigating explanations for the striking inverse social gradient in morbidity and mortality. He chairs the Department of Health Scientific Reference Group on tackling health inequalities.
In 2000 he was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen for services to Epidemiology and understanding health inequalities. Internationally acclaimed, Professor Marmot is a Vice President of the Academia Europaea and the Chair of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health set up by the World Health Organization in 2005). He was told that in some ways he was the "father"of the Shed, given his work on highlighting the social determinants of health.
The Shed in Mt Druitt is an unpretentious building so it is extraordinary that Sir Michael chose to visit. He wanted direct contact with Aboriginal people in an urban setting. He stayed a few hours and ate with people, engaging in conversation with several, often focusing on their experiences of suicide in their families and community. They were clear in their support for the approach of the Shed in addressing the distress that could lead up to suicide.
It was a vey encouraging day for the Shed.