Suicide Prevention – What Will Make a Difference?

Dec 5 2018

Alan Woodward is one of Australia’s leading experts in suicide prevention

outside the box

Suicide is a problem in this country. Despite Australia being possibly the richest people in the world according to recent data on median wealth levels, despite having a peaceful existence far away from the world’s conflicts and despite the opportunities and quality of life prospects we enjoy, for more than a decade we have seen suicide rates that remain around the same – each year more than 3,000 people die and an estimated 80,000 suicide attempts occur. An estimated 400,000 Australians each year are impacted by suicide deaths to a point where their own well-being is affected.

More can and must be done to prevent loss of life and human tragedy. There are several areas in which priority attention is warranted for suicide prevention:

Crisis Response and Aftercare

This refers to the clinical and personal responses made through our hospitals, mental health services and other community supports for the person who has become suicidal – who may become visible because they have enacted on those feelings through a suicide attempt or an experience of personal crisis. These crisis responses need to be quick, proficient and accessible; they need to be effective in preventing the loss of life.

Yet, a one-off crisis response action is not enough. We need to address the volatile and fluctuating nature of suicidality. We should realise that one suicidal crisis is likely to be followed by another unless the underlying reasons that a person has for wanting to die are addressed in personal and practical ways. We need to create pathways for change and recovery. This can be enabled through follow up supports and the offer of coordinated services, both clinical and non-clinical in nature.

There is no higher priority for suicide prevention than reform to the overall service responses for suicidal persons who present looking for help. For it is these people who are most vulnerable to dying by suicide. Three key reforms would be:

–        a requirement to provide a comprehensive psycho-social assessment for every suicidal person to inform the mix of services to meet their needs;

–        the removal of suicide risk profile stratifications that are unreliable and only serve to restrict some ‘low risk’ person’s access to service;

–        and the creation of specialist programs including short stay residential care that directly address a person’s suicidality.

These changes would represent greater quality care for suicide in our service system. They would shift the response from ‘prevention of death’ alone to ‘recovery and changed futures’.

Practical Help on Life Situations

Suicidal behaviour is often triggered by events or a person’s circumstances, reinforced by that individual’s sense of being unable to escape or deal with them. This sense of entrapment is often what becomes the tipping point. Research and theory development by Professor Rory O’Connor and others at University of Glasgow is helping us better understand this.

So, suicide prevention must have a practical orientation if it is to be relevant and effective. Services must be able to show a suicidal person how their immediate difficulties can be addressed. Linkages must be formed across a variety of services including housing, financial counselling, relationships, alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, employment and responses to trauma and abuse.

Social Dimensions to Suicidal Behaviours

Third, we must consider the question of how a person sees themselves and the world around them. There is a social dimension to suicide.

Men account for three out of four suicide deaths in Australia. It is time to examine what leads men to want to end their lives, to better understand the pressures and the challenges that men may face. In particular, the ManUp series and associated research including the Ten to Men longitudinal study have demonstrated that outdated concepts of masculinity are barriers to male emotional well-being.

Reaching men in meaningful ways and addressing the attitudes and beliefs associated with concepts of masculinity will make a difference in their behaviours. This will require social change.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention has rightly been recognised as a priority, with a national strategy and additional resources on program development and services. However, indigenous leaders have identified the importance of culture in their communities, which is directly and intrinsically related to recognition, respect and inclusion in Australian society. It is simply not possible for suicide prevention in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to be effective without the realisation of rights to culture, self-determination and recognition. This requires social action.

Broadly, social inclusion looms as one of the big challenges for Australian society and for suicide prevention. During a period of considerable social change, there is the risk that those who are vulnerable or different get left out. So many people are now experiencing profound loneliness in our modern society. There is a chance we shall isolate or marginalise some people while we struggle with the pace of change and the complexity of challenges before us.

Taking the words of Hugh Mackay from his latest book on Australian society – we need big hearts and open minds to reduce the collective anxiety that is fueling overly simplistic solutions and appeals to fear while at the same time drawing on compassion and understanding for each other.

Social connection and compassion are essential ingredients for suicide prevention. They are the fuel for hope. They are protective factors that we need in place.

Our response to suicide must address human suffering. Amongst all other things, suicide prevention should be regarded as a humanitarian cause. This is recognised by Norwegian American writer Siri Hustvedt who concluded after listening to the stories of many individuals who had survived suicide attempts: “Despair and pain is a feature of suicidal experiences. Every suicidal person has a story of suffering.”

So, suicide prevention requires multiple actions, some that are individually focused, others that require us all to contribute to a society that is more supportive to people going through tough times, more open and accepting of difference amongst people and more protective in the prevention of suicide.

For help in Australia

CAPS – Talk Suicide Support Service – Free telephone and face to face support      1800 008 255

Salvation Army Care Line     1300 36 36 22

Reach Out     http://au.reachout.com/tough-times

Headspace     Register and chat now at eheadspace, or call 1800 650 890  Headspace

Lifeline    13 11 14

Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 (24 hour phone counselling and referral)

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Mates in Construction: 1300 642 111

QLife        1800 184 527    Phone & Chat  3.00 pm – 12.00 pm everyday

SANE Australia help

SANE Australia Helpline  –  Talk to a mental health professional (weekdays, 10 am-10 pm AEST) 1800 18 72 63

Helpline chat – Chat online with a mental health professional (weekdays 10 am-10 pm AEST)

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 (24 hour phone counselling)

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (Professional call back service referral line operates seven days a week)

Veterans Line 1800 011 046 (after hours professional telephone crisis counselling for veterans and their families

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Become a trainer in CALM

CALM: The voice of Education in Suicide – Calm conversations can save lives

Train others how to intervene and support somebody who may be thinking about suicide.

Dates: 6th, 7th & 8th February 2018

Location: Brisbane, venue TBA

FEE after 6th of January: $2,500

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Email: sandra@keepcalm.org.au; melanie@keepcalm.org.au
Phone: (07)3077 6536, (07)31172455; 0433 121 999
Website: http://www.keepcalm.org.au

Losing someone to suicide is a tragedy that can be prevented when one has the right skills and tools. This three day Train the Trainer (T4T) workshop will provide you with the skills, knowledge and resources to help your participants: recognise the subtle warning signs somebody may be at risk; open up a conversation in a comfortable and safe manner; help the person reconnect with their strengths and hold their hope and lastly to identify referral pathways and develop a meaningful safety plan. An evidence-informed program drawing on the latest research and methodologies, it is informed
by lived experience and has a strong focus on what language to use to achieve a positive outcome.
The T4T is effectively delivered over a 3 day period. This ensures that all participants understand the theories, principles and models that underpin CALM; fully grasp and be able to demonstrate their ability to explain and use the CALM model of intervention and lastly, to gain confidence in their ability to competently deliver the one day program to their audiences.

Day 1 – The program will be delivered in its entirety by CALM trainers to give you a view of the one day presentation.

Day 2 – Each component of the model will be explained in full detail covering the evidence that underpins and informs the CALM model.

Day 3 – Each participant will have the opportunity to practice and present a section of the program to ensure they have understood the intent and delivery method of the CALM model as well as enabling them to gain confidence in their presentation styles.

 

For help in Australia

CAPS – Talk Suicide Support Service – Free telephone and face to face support      1800 008 255

Salvation Army Care Line     1300 36 36 22

Reach Out     http://au.reachout.com/tough-times

Headspace     Register and chat now at eheadspace, or call 1800 650 890  Headspace

Lifeline    13 11 14

Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 (24 hour phone counselling and referral)

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Mates in Construction: 1300 642 111

QLife        1800 184 527    Phone & Chat  3.00 pm – 12.00 pm everyday

SANE Australia help

SANE Australia Helpline  –  Talk to a mental health professional (weekdays, 10 am-10 pm AEST) 1800 18 72 63

Helpline chat – Chat online with a mental health professional (weekdays 10 am-10 pm AEST)

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 (24 hour phone counselling)

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (Professional call back service referral line operates seven days a week)

Veterans Line 1800 011 046 (after hours professional telephone crisis counselling for veterans and their families

The 6th Australian Postvention Conference 13 – 15 June 2019 | Sydney Masonic Centre

Conference registration and abstract submissions open

postvention conference

Building Hope Together
The Journey After Suicide
The 6th Australian Postvention Conference
13 – 15 June 2019 – Sydney Masonic Centre

www.buildinghopetogether.com.au

Postvention Australia and the Conference Committee are pleased to announce that registration and call for abstracts for the 6th Australian Postvention Conference are now open.

Abstract submissions close Friday 8th February 2019.

More information can be found on the conference website:  www.buildinghopetogether.com.au

Register now

Submit your abstract

Conference Information

The 2019 Conference focuses on building hope together through the three main conference themes -encouraging resilience, incorporating lived experience and facilitating collaboration between stakeholders. The conference encourages the sharing and discussion of ideas, stories and research to bring positive outcomes for the postvention sector. This conference brings together those bereaved by suicide,trauma victims and survivors, Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, defence force services, emergency services and individuals/organisations working the field of suicide bereavement, trauma and loss.

Conference Program

The three-day conference commences with half-day and full-day pre-conference workshops on Thursday 13 June 2019

These workshops are followed by two days of plenaries, workshops and presentations from International and Australian presenters. We are privileged to have international guests and invited Australian speakers who are well known in Australia and internationally for their research and expertise in trauma and bereavement.

International presenters include:

  • Dr Julie Cerel (President, American Association of Suicidology)
  • Ken Norton (NAMI NH, Connect Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention Program)
  • Sharon McDonnell (Suicide Bereavement UK)

Australian presenters include:

  • Pat Dudgeon (Deputy Chair, Australian Indigenous Psychologist’s Association, Chair, National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Leaders Mental Health, Co-Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, Director, National Empowerment Project, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project and the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP))
  • Myfanwy Maple (Professor of Social Work, and Chair of Research, School of Health, University of New England)
  • Adele Cox (Project Director, National Indigenous Critical Response Project, Chief Executive, Thirrili Ltd)

 

The conference concludes with a special Healing and Remembrance Service. The Healing and Remembrance service provides an opportunity for individuals, families and friends to come together to share and be supported in their grief as we honour and remember their loved one.

My Story – A Lived Experience

A bereaved person will share their story at the beginning of each plenary to link their lived experience with the theoretical aspect of the conference. While it is often challenging to find the words to give expression to the experience of loss to suicide, we know that telling one’s story, sometimes through the use of creative art forms, can be healing and strengthening. It can also be an effective way to break down the silence and stigma often associated with suicide. The Mindframe guidelines will be used to steer these speeches. For more information, please visit Lived Experience Speaker.

This conference is primarily for the bereaved by suicide and for those working with/supporting the bereaved. This conference will bring together family and friends who have been bereaved by suicide, the Indigenous, teachers, youth workers, social workers, mental health professionals, general practitioners and medical personnel, clergy, emergency services personnel, researches, service providers and funeral service personnel.

There will be limited bursaries available for the bereaved by suicide and/or support group facilitators who would otherwise be unable to attend.

Conference Objectives

  1. To provide a voice for those bereaved by suicide through creative expression and integrating the stories of those bereaved by suicide across Australia
  2. To reach out and support with Hope and Healing, military and emergency services personnel suffering intense emotional trauma, shock, grief and physical and mental ill health
  3. To provide support, information and opportunities for networking and collaboration between bereavement researchers, educators, policy writers, service providers, funeral directors, Indigenous communities, emergency services, military personnel, and those bereaved by suicide
  4. To contribute to an evidence base through the exchange of research and practice knowledge
  5. To raise the prominence of suicide bereavement issues nationally

To highlight the range of Australian bereavement services and promote an integrated and cohesive approach to the needs of bereaved people, Indigenous communities, military and emergency service personnel at a local, state, national and international level.

About Postvention Australia

Postvention Australia is a not-for-profit organisation designed to prevent suicide through supporting and helping people who are ‘left behind’ after a suicide takes place. It originated from accumulating evidence that this is a neglected area of suicide prevention: people bereaved through suicide are up to eight times more likely to take their life than the general population. Postvention Australia – the National Association for the Bereaved by Suicide – is a national voice for those bereaved by suicide and it is our task to seek consultation with those bereaved listen with understanding and compassion. The Postvention Australia website has a listing of suicide bereavement support groups, as well as other resources.

The problem of suicide bereavement

Over 3,000 people take their lives each year in Australia, which equates to 8 persons lost to suicide each day. For each suicide death, new research shows at least 135 people are directly affected when a person suicides. Extrapolating from this information, this equates to over 1000 people affected by suicide each day in Australia. Given the longevity of suicide grief, too many are in need of help. The social, emotional and economic consequences of suicide are immense. To lose someone to suicide commonly results in intense emotional trauma, shock, grief, guilt, physical and psychological ill health and adverse social circumstances. The bereaved by suicide are up to eight times the risk of suicide than the general population.

Suicide touches everyone, all ages and incomes, all racial, ethnic and religious groups in all parts throughout Australia. In remote and very remote areas, the rate of suicide was 1.7 times that of major cities in 2015. The ripple effect created by suicide can affect family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues as well as clubs, schools and churches.

Information and support have been demonstrated as important in helping the bereaved survive through the pain of grief. Recent research has demonstrated that getting help and information is still a haphazard process without a clear pathway to help. Effective postvention is prevention.

Conference Information

I ask if you would please circulate conference information to the bereaved by suicide and service providers in your region.

We value the contribution of postvention service providers and we are developing close relationships/partnerships with service providers throughout Australia.
For further information I can be contacted on my mobile, 0412 164 575 or by email, alanstaines@optusnet.com.au

For and on behalf of:


Chair, Prof. Diego De Leo AO, Deputy Chair, Prof. Ian Webster AO, National Secretary, Alan Staines OAM (Envoy) and the Board of the Postvention Australia Conference Committee