It takes a community to prevent a suicide: place-based suicide prevention

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In 1897, when Emile Durkheim published his study of suicide, he found that this inherently individual act could be predicted by social markers such as gender and connectedness, which continues to hold true in Victoria today.

The rate of Victorian deaths per 100,000 people had risen to 15.6 for men and 5.0 for women in 2014. Nationally, the highest rate of suicide is among men aged 85 and over (37.6 per 100,000), followed by men aged between 40–44 and 50–54 (29.9 and 29.2 per 100,000 respectively). The highest rate of suicide among women is in the 35–39 age group (9.2 per 100,000).

Although suicide rates are lower among young people, suicides account for a larger proportion of deaths of young men and women. The suicide rate is higher in regional Victoria (14.9 per 100,000) than in metropolitan Melbourne (9.4 per 100,000). The suicide rate in the Aboriginal population is twice the general population rate, and suicide generally occurs at much younger ages.

For every suicide, there are many more people – family, friends, carers, colleagues and communities – who are deeply affected.

Suicide is a complex behaviour but it is preventable, and we need to do more to prevent it.

The responsibility for preventing suicide needs to be shifted from solely clinical and mental health services to the community as a whole. Everybody has a role to play in building resilience, building awareness and strengthening our approach to earlier intervention for vulnerable Victorians.

There is a strong and concerted effort underway to reduce suicide in Victoria, and in Australia. The Victorian state government in partnership with the six Victorian PHNs, aim to halve the rate of suicide by 2025 with a $27 million, four-year investment to help stakeholders and community members plan and deliver two suicide prevention initiatives:

1. Place-based initiative – helping local communities to prevent suicide

The Victorian government will support local communities to develop and implement coordinated place-based approaches to suicide prevention. These trials will see all relevant organisations and services working together to deliver effective suicide prevention at a local level, this includes:

  • implementing a range of evidence-based, coordinated strategies at the same time
  • multi-sectoral involvement by all government, non-government, health, business, education, research and community agencies
  • governance within a local area
  • demonstrating sustainability and long-term commitment

A local suicide prevention group at each site will develop a plan to reduce suicides in the area. Each site will be supported to implement the nine proven suicide prevention interventions:

  • prevention awareness programs
  • school-based programs
  • responsible media reporting
  • gatekeeper training
  • frontline staff training
  • general practitioner support
  • reduce access to lethal means
  • high-quality treatment
  • continuing care after suicide attempt.

Families and people with lived experience of suicide attempts will be critical in developing these local interventions.
The 12 place-based trial locations in Victoria are: Ballarat, Brimbank / Melton, Latrobe Valley, Mildura, Mornington Peninsula / Frankston, Whittlesea, Macedon Ranges, Benalla, Maroondah, Great South Coast, Bass Coast and Dandenong.

Larter has been working with the place-based program to engage whole-of-community stakeholders in two sites to explore their role in contributing to a community suicide prevention strategy. We have been discussed taking a person-centred approach to supporting suicidal individuals, their families and carers and ways to co-design services and systems in partnership with people who have lived experience of suicidal behaviours. We have also been exploring how to develop approaches in culturally appropriate and accessible ways that meet the needs of different segments of our communities.

We have been working with the evidence-based framework to identify opportunities to maximise collective effort and investment in prevention, and to develop thinking about ways forward.

2. Assertive outreach initiative- improving care following a suicide attempt

In collaboration with health services, the Victorian Government will trial assertive outreach support for people leaving hospital following a suicide attempt.

This will involve tailored, person-centred support that is responsive to the unique needs and circumstances of the individual.

Those eligible for the service will be contacted within 24 hours of hospital discharge, and support will continue for up to three months.

Assertive outreach workers will also work with, and provide support to, the families, friends and carers of people who have attempted suicide.

Talk to us if you’d like to learn more about our experience in the place-based suicide prevention framework or our approach to engaging stakeholders.