Boots on the ground for suicide prevention
Published: 3 May, 2017
Black Dog Institute is taking action to reduce suicide rates, implementing one of the largest suicide prevention trials in the world and working with governments to save lives.
There has been considerable discussion about suicide and suicide prevention over the past few months, and for good reason. As we see suicide rates increasing, the community is understandably searching for answers.
Suicide is an extremely complex issue, involving a myriad of health, social, economic and personal factors that all need to be addressed before we can reduce our suicide rate to zero.
What is obvious is that our current system of suicide prevention needs to change. The good news is that research evidence from here and overseas is showing us what we can do to save lives. We believe it is time to stop talking and start acting.
Research by Black Dog Institute, in partnership with lived experience representatives, clearly shows that the first steps to improving suicide rates are to improve and connect mental health services, provide suicide prevention training to clinicians and key gatekeepers, tackle suicidal thoughts in schools, managing suicide in the media and minimising access to method.
Our work has shown that taking this systems approach - implementing all of these strategies at the same time within a local community - will have a significant impact on suicide rates.
Thankfully, the Australian Government and a number of State governments have acknowledged this evidence and are taking action now.
This year, twelve large Australian regions will trial this type of systemic approach to suicide prevention. This is in addition to the four NSW-based Black Dog Institute LifeSpan trial regions supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the NSW Government.
While the prospect of having a significant impact on peoples’ lives is exciting to say the least, the creation of solid and focused multi-agency networks will be the real game-changer.
For the first time, government health agencies will be formally connected to councils, schools, emergency services, workplaces and individuals with lived experience. Evidence-based suicide prevention programs will be integrated into real community settings.
Researchers from Black Dog Institute and elsewhere will collect and analyse data in real time, guiding tailored improvements and enabling prioritisation of high risk locations and populations.
This activity is all underway right now, with hundreds of people from across Australia working behind the scenes to make this a reality.
We believe suicide prevention deserves more than PR stunts, talking heads and hashtags. It is this kind of real action that will save lives, and I am proud that Black Dog is part of the national initiative.
By: Prof Helen Christensen, Director and Chief Scientist, Black Dog Institute
Scientia Professor Helen Christensen is Director and Chief Scientist at the Black Dog Institute and a Professor of Mental Health at UNSW. She is one of only two National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) John Cade Research Fellows and Chief Investigator for the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP).