Associate Professor Vida Bliokas, School of Psychology

Funding boost for new suicide prevention project

Funding boost for new suicide prevention project

Researcher welcomes $100,000 grant for investigation into aftercare

Associate Professor Vida Bliokas from the University of Wollongong (UOW) School of Psychology and Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) and her colleagues have received almost $100,000 under Suicide Prevention Australia’s Innovation Grant scheme.

Professor Bliokas and the team were awarded funding for their project: ‘Investigating gender differences in a suicide prevention aftercare program: How can we improve outcomes for all?’

The grant will fund a two-year project investigating the impact of suicide prevention service, the Next Steps Aftercare Program.

“This funding will allow us to collect sufficient data for a well-powered study to look at gender differences in the outcomes of the aftercare program,” she said.

In 2018, suicide made up for more than one third of deaths among people aged 15-24.

Current data shows that men have higher rates of suicide than women do, with suicide the 10th most common cause of death among males. Despite this, they access the least amount of services. Professor Bliokas hopes to investigate the reason behind this pattern.

“The programs are not a one size fits all. We need to understand what sort of program will suit male and female participants, and we need to investigate this in a lot more detail.”

“Receiving this grant is important because it will help us to understand which interventions assist people in their recovery following a suicide attempt, or a time when they were at high risk for suicide,” she said.

The project is a collaborative effort bringing together researchers from a number of different UOW research centres as well as from mental health and health care organisations in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven.

The research team also includes Dr Luise Lago from UOW’s Centre of Health Research Illawarra Shoalhaven Population, Dr Alex Hains from Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, Senior Professor Brin Grenyer from UOW’s Project Air Strategy, Dr Rebecca Sng from Grand Pacific Health, and Mr Tim Heffernan from Coordinare and Consumer Led Research Network.

lClockwise from top left: Alex Hains, Vida Bliokas, Brin Grenyer, Tim Heffernan, Rebecca Sng, Luise Lago.

(Clockwise from top left) Dr Lex Hains, Associate Professor Vida Bliokas, Senior Professor Brin Grenyer, Mr Tim Heffernan, Dr Rebecca Sng and Dr Luise Lago.

Suicide prevention in the COVID-19 context

The funding is a welcome boost in 2020, as there has been ample concern around the effects of isolation on mental wellbeing.

Professor Bliokas said that while mental health services have adapted to an online delivery, it is important to look out for vulnerable people who might be hardest hit by the restrictions.

“For those feeling high levels of distress during these times, it is important to provide a listening ear, support and understanding, and encouragement to seek professional help, either face-to-face or via the various Telehealth or phone options,” she said.

“I encourage people to keep aware of their own signs of stress, use their support resources and own strategies as much as possible, and also reach out to professionals, who are there to help.”

Professor Bliokas is also a founding member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, which was created at an IHMRI team meeting in 2015.

The Collaborative has grown to be a partnership of more than 40 local organisations that work together to prevent suicide in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, including working with local workplaces and schools to educate people on how to talk about suicide.

The organisation is still working tirelessly to prevent suicide in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, while maintaining distancing measures.

“We have continued to work productively together, albeit via videoconferencing links. Many services have now moved to Telehealth or phone calls with people seeking help.”

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