Halving the Suicide Rate

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a $27 million suicide prevention framework aimed at halving Victoria’s suicide rate over the next decade.

More lives have been lost to suicide in a one-year period in Victoria than the road toll. In 2014 alone, suicide was the cause of death of 646 people across Victoria, that’s double the road toll of 257.

“For every suicide, there are many more people affected – family, friends, carers, colleagues and communities. This is something we need to change,” Mr Andrews said.

The funding package will focus on two key suicide prevention initiatives: community education and providing support for people who have attempted suicide. It will target six regions where the incidence of suicide is highest.

It is important to consider whether there is any research available that would support the initiatives and show they reduce the rates of suicide.

Community Education:

  • Suicide prevention is a shared responsibility

The Living is for Everyone website says,

“Raising community awareness of suicide prevention creates a culture of shared responsibility in providing locally-based and locally-owned solutions and will contribute to the capacity of a community to protect and support all its members.”

Talking about suicide has often been regarded as taboo. It was thought giving prominence to the issue only exacerbated the problem, leading to further suicides. This is not the case. We need to talk more about suicide and make sure we talk about it in a way that is helpful and healthy. Talking openly and matter-of-factly about suicide allows people the opportunity to express what they are thinking without feeling threatened.

  • Training people in the skills necessary to help a person at risk of suicide

There are many training options available for suicide prevention in Australia. They cover topics such as understanding myths and facts about suicide; recognising warning signs; how to identify the level of risk; and implementing appropriate interventions before a crisis occurs;

The Living Works ASIST suicide prevention training helps people learn to apply a suicide intervention model. It helps friends or caregivers recognise when someone may be at risk of suicide. It then explores how to connect with them in ways that understand and clarify that risk, increase their immediate safety and link them with further help.

  • A primary focus on local groups and organisations

Community groups and organisations increase the wellbeing, resilience and social connectedness of the entire community. They are well placed to identify those at risk of suicide and to offer support to vulnerable individuals, families and groups.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the community education initiatives they would be supporting included workforce training, school-based support and mental health literacy programs.

He concluded, “Involving community education is critical to spreading the message that there is always hope, there is always support.”

Providing support for people who have attempted suicide:

A suicide attempt must always be taken seriously. Without intervention and proper treatment, a person who has attempted suicide is at greater risk of another attempt and possible suicide. Research suggests that up to 25% of those treated in emergency departments for a suicide attempt will make a future attempt and 5% to 10% will eventually die by suicide. It has also been found that the first three months after a suicide attempt are critical in a person’s recovery as they are at a higher risk of a further attempt.

The strongest predictor of suicide is one or more previous attempts; yet, most people who die by suicide die on their first attempt.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said, “People who have attempted suicide will benefit from intensive community-based support.”

This is critical as people who survive a suicide attempt are often resistant to engage in follow-up treatment. It has been found that about 50% of those who attempt suicide don’t attend any treatment post-discharge.

People who have attempted suicide need to recognise they are not alone and they can get through this. When they are ready, it is vital they talk about what has happened with people they trust.

The proposed strategies will see a reduction in the suicide rates but whether the target of halving the suicide rate is realistic remains to be seen.

                                      A valuable resource from beyondblue

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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