A new suicide prevention program expected to reduce suicide deaths by 20 percent and suicide attempts by 30 percent will use nine strategies targeting prevention, education, and specialised frontline care.
The new "systems based" multi-strategy approach, called LifeSpan, is the first program of its kind targeting localised communities through multiple avenues at the same time.
Developed by researchers at the Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention, the program aims to address national suicide rates, which have not declined in the past decade.
Suicide remains the most common cause of death in Australians aged between 15 and 44.
Director of the Black Dog Institute Professor Helen Christensen said the specially tailored strategies introduced to communities at the same time make LifeSpan "different to anything tried before".
"One single strategy in and of itself will not be able to contribute enough to trying to make a dent in suicide rates," Christensen told The Huffington Post Australia.
"You can't just focus on one particular strategy because it won't capture all the people that you need. We know that 60 to 70 percent of suicides come unheralded."
The program will be rolled out in Newcastle in October and then expanded to other New South Wales regions where suicide rates are high -- including Newcastle, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Gosford, Wyong and the Murrumbidgee -- in 2017.
It will take 16 months to introduce the programs, which will be monitored for two years to measure the benefits it has on the communities.
Christensen said the program cannot have a blanket approach if it is going to help every part of the community, naming school programs as an effective way of reaching young people in the area.
"Nevertheless, the strategies remain uniform, it's just how they are applied in that particular area that have to be adjusted to the nature of the community," Christensen said.
The nine strategies implemented in each region through LifeSpan include:
- Aftercare and crisis care for people who have attempted suicide
- Psychosocial treatment to provide appropriate mental health care
- Capacity for GPs to recognise depression and provide appropriate support
- Frontline staff training
- Gatekeeper training for social workers, teachers and religious workers
- School programs to reach young people and help them develop knowledge around suicide warnings, mental health and avenues to seek help
- Community campaigns to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide
- Ensuring media guidelines are being followed around reporting on suicide
- Reducing the means of suicide, including identifying and restricting suicide hot spots
"If you're trying to stop suicide attempts from somebody who has already made an attempt, then proper coordinated care is the best strategy," Christensen said.
"If you're trying to prevent unheralded depression, it's through capacity building of general practitioners.
"There are different ways to catch people and they do all add up, but some of them are more important than others; coordinated care after a suicide attempt, access to psychological treatment and capacity of GPs to recognise depression in general practice are pretty important."
The program modelling has been adopted by the Federal Government's Primary Health Network while the Victorian Government has announced funding for LifeSpan's rollout across the state.