Psychologists collaborate on Australia’s largest suicide prevention trial

Psychologists collaborate on Australia’s largest suicide prevention trial

Illawarra-Shoalhaven region chosen as one of four locations across NSW to implement new suicide prevention trial.

Experts from UOW and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute are involved in Australia’s largest integrated suicide prevention program expected to reduce suicide deaths by 20 per cent and suicide attempts by 30 per cent.

The new approach to suicide prevention, developed by researchers at Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP), will be rolled out in four locations across NSW, including the Illawarra Shoalhaven.

Called Lifespan, this evidence-based ‘systems approach’ involves the simultaneous implementation of nine strategies proven to reduce suicide. These include: improved access to mental health care, quality education programs for people at the front line (emergency staff, teachers, GPs), minimising access to lethal means and encouraging safe conversations about suicide in schools, workplaces and communities.

As an executive member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, clinical psychologist Professor Brin Grenyer (pictured), from UOW’s School of Psychology and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, will help implement the program and will be working with the Collaborative on further research initiatives.

He said suicide rates within the Illawarra Shoalhaven remain higher than NSW averages, with latest data reporting more than 40 suicides in the region in 2014.

"This is an area where we need a whole of community approach – so it is a delight to work alongside more than 20 local groups in the Collaborative who are all committed to suicide prevention. Our partnership with the local community and the Lifespan team gives us the best opportunity to make a difference,” Professor Grenyer said.

Professor Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute and CRESP, said this solution should significantly reduce suicide deaths and suicide attempts, as well as improving the lives of those living with suicidal thoughts and mental illness.

“The key to this program, and what makes it different to anything tried before, is the intensity of the interventions – this is the first time we are implementing specially tailored and evidence-based strategies at the same time within local communities.

“Importantly, we have incorporated the knowledge of people who have experience of suicidal thoughts in themselves or a loved one,” she added.

Lifespan will be implemented in the Illawarra Shoalhaven from February as part of the work to be undertaken by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative.

The Collaborative, which was established in 2015, consists of representatives from the Local Health District’s mental health services, UOW, IHMRI, Grand Pacific Health, Lifeline South Coast and Coordinare, as well as more than 20 local community organisations.

Other UOW academics involved in the implementation of the program include Professor Frank Deane and Associate Professor Mitch Byrne from the School of Psychology and Dr Coralie Wilson from the Graduate School of Medicine.