The National Suicide Prevention Adviser, Christine Morgan, has delivered the Final Advice report that addresses suicide prevention in Australia.
The National Suicide Prevention Advisers Final Report was informed through discussions and consultation with several key stakeholders, including people with lived experience, suicide prevention and mental health organisations, government departments, Primary Health Networks, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and members of the Adviser’s Expert Advisory Group.
The Final Advice report calls for a focus on prevention and early intervention with more integrated services. The report has identified four essential enablers to move to a new approach and four further priority shifts to engage with people to prevent suicide distress.
The four key enablers
1. Leadership and governance to drive a whole of government approach
Historically, the central focus of suicide prevention has been on the health system. The recommendation is to deliver a whole of government approach at all levels, with national outcomes. This will include developing a National Suicide Prevention Strategy that aligns with the National Agreement on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
A National Suicide Prevention Office will set strategic directions, build capabilities, support action and report on outcomes.
2. Lived experience knowledge and leadership
Suicide prevention approaches must be informed by what people experiencing suicidal distress need. People and their lived experience will help to guide government policy, service design and delivery, program implementation, and evaluation. The recommendation is for governments to integrate lived experience expertise into leadership for suicide prevention and build the lived experience workforce.
3. Data and evidence to drive outcomes
The recommendation is for a national and joined-up approach to collect, share and use suicide data. This will include all jurisdictions maintaining a suicide register, conducting national surveys, developing a national outcomes framework, and setting research priorities.
4. Workforce and community capability
Building capability in the community and across workforces will ensure a consistent and compassionate approach to help people in distress. Every interaction someone has with a department agency, service provider or community contact is a chance to identify suicidal distress and intervene to provide the appropriate support. The recommendation is for jurisdictions to resource evidence-based training for health staff and implement compassion-based training for frontline workers.
The National Office of Suicide Prevention will also lead on developing a national suicide prevention workforce strategy.
The four priority shifts
1. Responding earlier to distress
A range of government services supports people through difficult times, including family crisis, relationship breakdown, financial distress, and health concerns. By proactively coordinating these touchpoints, these services can provide a new approach of outreach and intervention to reduce suicidal risk.
The recommendation is to intervene early in life to mitigate the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and ensure early access to programs. The report also recommends implementing a scalable early distress intervention for people experiencing distress in intimate relationships, employment or workplace, financial, and isolation or loneliness. Further interventions are recommended during life transitions, including entering or leaving justice settings, leaving military service, leaving education settings, entering retirement, and engaging with aged or supported care services.
2. Connecting people to compassionate services and supports
People with lived experience emphasise the importance of coordinated care, therapeutic approaches and peer support. The recommendation is for all governments to work together to implement the priority actions from the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for Australia’s Health System 2020-2023 and the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. These include integrating digital and face-to-face support, after-care services, compassionate support for families and the community, and connecting alcohol and drug prevention and treatment services to the suicide prevention approach.
3. Targeting groups that are disproportionately affected by suicide
For population groups disproportionately affected by suicide, the recommendation is for all governments to prioritise these groups when planning and funding suicide prevention. Recommendations include national funding of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy, identify priority actions for male suicide prevention, and include national actions for priority populations (e.g. children and young people, LGBTIQ+ communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, veterans and families, and regional and rural communities impacted by adversity)..
4. Delivering policy responses to improve security and safety
A component of suicide prevention involves governments delivering on their core business by providing people with good access to basic supports, services and resources, addressing security and safety, and investing in wellbeing. The recommendation is to work towards a ‘suicide prevention in all policies’ approach that builds capabilities and reviews policies to enhance opportunities for improved security and safety.
Visit the Department of Health website to read Final Advice report.
Visit the Life in Mind website to view the national suicide prevention strategies in Australia.
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 Australian Government Department of Health. The National Suicide Prevention Advisers Final Report (2020). Australian Government. Https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/national-suicide-prevention-adviser-final-advice