Suicide Prevention – Summit Session Recap

The Suicide Prevention workshop at the Injury Prevention Summit provided an opportunity for health professionals to reflect on achievements, the current state of the sector and areas for improvement. The range of experiences amongst the panellists and the audience generated a broad ranging discussion, with many common themes emerging throughout the session.

When discussing strengths of the sector, many points related back to an increased awareness and understanding of suicide and mental illness, a reduction in stigma and increased openness to talking about issues in the community. The development of mental health education training and the wide range of workplaces who are now training and supporting staff was also highlighted.

There was however agreement that more training and support is required for frontline workers and General Practitioner’s. Other concerns raised included insufficient services in regional communities, minimal after-hours care and the lack of coordination across the sector leading to gaps and duplication in service provision. This was in part attributed to the complexities of state and federal funding, short funding cycles leading to staff turnover and the inability for long-term planning, and the absence of one overarching body to coordinate services and programs across the state. Panellists and participants discussed the need to invest more in post-vention services for people who have lost someone to suicide, as well as the need to address the normalisation of mental distress and suicide in specific populations including Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) workers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Overall it was agreed that the best approach to suicide prevention is adopting a lifespan model and acknowledging that no one strategy alone will prevent suicide. Ensuring programs are culturally appropriate and community driven by approaching suicide prevention as a whole of community issue, finding local community champions and building resilience and capacity at a community level are crucial. Addressing the social determinants of health, re-introducing emotional literacy programs in primary schools and treating each community as unique were also identified as being important aspects of suicide prevention. Also discussed was the need to improve evaluation methods to inform best practice for suicide prevention, including developing more creative ways to measure wellbeing indicators in the community.

By the end of the session it became clear that raising awareness and education has been successful in the last decade, however it is now time to take the next step as a sector to prevent suicide, with the WA Suicide Prevention 2020 Plan highlighted as a practical starting point.

Moderator: Professor Neil Drew – Director, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

Panel members:

  • Jo Drayton – Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Holyoake
  • Professor Pat Dudgeon – The University of Western Australia
  • Hon Alison Xamon – MLC North Metropolitan Region