Understanding suicide prevention
Suicide is a prominent public health concern that affects individuals, families, communities and workforces across Australia. Understanding the evidence base and policy content for suicide prevention is important if we are going to reduce the onset, severity and impact of suicidal behaviours in Australia.
What is Suicide Prevention?
Suicide prevention is focused on reducing risk factors for suicide and enhancing protective factors that prevention suicide and suicidal behaviour. It requires coordinated and combined action from all levels of government, health care systems, frontline health and community workers, workplaces, schools and other educational settings, community groups, and the media, as well as individuals, families and communities.
A successful coordinated response to suicide should prioritise cost-effective and evidence-based approaches that focus on intervening as early as possible with those experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours. But it should also look outside the health and other service systems, and think broadly about tackling the factors that may increase or decrease risk in individuals and communities.
The evidence base for suicide prevention
Despite investment in international, national and state suicide prevention strategies, there is still gaps in the evidence regarding the effectiveness of individual interventions upon which to base preventative strategies. Better integration of research with program and service responses over time will help to build and enhance the evidence base for suicide prevention.
Reviews of the international evidence have supported the adoption of a multi-faceted approach to suicide prevention. This includes a combination of public health approaches, treatment approaches and community capacity building. The types of interventions that hold the most promise based on research evidence, include:
- Reducing access to means of suicide
- Implementing guidelines related to the reporting of suicide in the media
- Training ‘gatekeepers’ (including general practitioners, police, teachers, prison staff etc.) to identify and support people at risk of suicide
- Enhancing early access to treatment and referral pathways for people at risk of suicide
- Delivery of evidence-based therapies to people at risk of suicide or experiencing mental
ill-health, such as cognitive behavioural therapy
- Postvention interventions to support individuals and communities bereaved or impacted by suicide
- Multi-modal interventions that have a combination of primary prevention, secondary prevention and early intervention approaches – for example education programs for community members, combined with gatekeeper training and enhanced treatment and referral pathways.
Frameworks for suicide prevention
The Living Is For Everyone (LiFE) Framework has underpinned suicide prevention activities in Australia since 2007. The LIFE Framework advocates for a multi-level, cross-sector approach to preventing suicide among the Australian community and adopts a range of interventions including universal interventions (for whole populations), selective interventions (for those who may be at greater risk) and indicated interventions (for those displaying suicidal behaviour).
Other frameworks have emerged more recently, that focus more specifically on the types of interventions to be delivered across settings – including one developed by the World Health Organisation and one developed for LifeSpan in Australia.
Prevention First Framework
The Hunter Institute has developed a plain-language Framework to describe suicide prevention activity.