Suicide accounts for over 2,700 deaths in Australia every year – more than seven each day. Suicide is the leading cause of death of young Australians aged between 15 and 44 – a shocking statistic when you consider that 100% of deaths by suicide are preventable.
However, suicide prevention is a complex and challenging issue both in Australia and worldwide.
In Australia, the National Suicide Prevention Strategy (NPS) is the Federal policy addressing the prevention of suicide with an emphasis on promotion, prevention and early intervention.
In line with this strategy, the Federal Government and State Government health departments work with community and stakeholder groups to raise awareness of suicide risk, seek to help those at risk of taking their own lives, and assist those bereaved by suicide.
Australian Suicide Prevention Services
Life in Mind was set up to connect Australian suicide prevention programs and to share knowledge surrounding suicide prevention, with an aim to reduce suicide rates and share services and resources with one other and the community.
Organisations that are part of the initiative include:
- Beyond Blue
- Head Space
- Kids Helpline
- Black Dog Institute
- Suicide Prevention Australia
- And several other health support organisations
Each organisation has its own individual focus and a specific group that it targets. For example, the Kids Helpline is a telephone counselling service for children and young people age 5 – 25 and the Black Dog Institute is focused on reducing mental illness through health services and community education.
Suicide Prevention Campaigns
As part of their work, several of these organisations run campaigns to raise awareness of suicide and mental health issues in Australia.
RU Ok Day
One high profile campaign is marked via a national day each September called RU Ok Day.
On this day – the 13th September this year – individuals are encouraged to ask those around them at school, work, and in the community, “Are you ok?”
The organisation helps people to look out for others who may be struggling by preparing them with ways to broach the subject, suggesting questions and conversation prompts, and providing resources such as guides, videos and toolkits.
There are community events such as afternoon teas and picnics, as well as fundraising races held all over the country. Also, a social media campaign with the hashtag #ruokday helps to spread the message across Australia and beyond.
While RU Ok Day is assigned a specific date, it’s not really intended as a one-day-a-year event, but rather offers resources and advice to raise awareness of suicide prevention in everyday life.
Zero2hero Day is an event that aims to reduce the social stigma of mental illness in young people and raise healthy conversations around issues such as bullying, self-harming, depression, and anxiety.
Schools and workplaces can request an information kit and sign up for speakers and workshops run by the zero2hero team of experts and leaders.
There’s also an annual fundraising event, a parenting seminar, and a mental health forum designed for students and teachers to learn more about mental health, with motivational talks from inspiring young guest speakers.
iBobbly is the world’s first suicide prevention app designed specifically for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
The app uses indigenous stories and images created by Aboriginal artists to deliver therapy aimed to reduce levels of suicidal feelings, improve feelings of depression, and urge the user to seek help when required.
Using the app is completely confidential and doesn’t require internet access once downloaded, helping to remove the hurdles of stigma and geographic isolation against seeking help for mental health problems.
Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health
The Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health runs a number of campaigns focused on suicide prevention in the Australian farming community and with people living in remote rural areas.
These include the “Act-Belong-Commit” campaign, which encourages people to take charge of their own mental health and learn how to be proactive in improving wellbeing; a “Books on Prescription” service to give individuals free access to self-help books; and “Good SPACE” – a suicide prevention project that provides community workshops to farm workers with the aim to increase suicide awareness, encourage people to have a conversation about suicide, and increase empathy to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide.
Operation School Invasion
Operation School Invasion is a programme run by the community-driven youth suicide prevention Charity, Alive.
The programme involves mental wellbeing workshops that are held at schools and sporting clubs across the country to deliver a blend of therapies including martial arts, horse therapy, farming style workshops, and outdoor adventure activities.
The aim is to improve the overall mental health and self-confidence of young people in a safe environment to build more resilience.
Suicide Risk and Protective Factors
Certain groups of people may be more at risk of suicidal behaviours. Identifying these people can help to make sure that preventative measures are put in place and help and resources are made available.
Some of these risk factors include:
- Mood disorders and other mental health problems
- Previous suicide attempts
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Relationship breakdown
- Financial stress
- Social isolation
- Childhood or adult trauma
- Exposure to the suicide of others or media coverage of suicide.
These factors may be particularly significant in priority populations such as the LGBT community, people living in remote rural areas, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Likewise, certain factors are known to reduce the risk of suicide and to help people cope with negative feelings and emotions. By working to make these preventative factors available, the risk of suicidal feelings and behaviours can be reduced. These include:
- Steady employment
- Stable relationships
- Good physical health
- Access to mental health care
- Good life skills and coping skills
- Involvement with the local community
Further Resources and Information
Suicide prevention programmes have shown to be effective worldwide in reducing the suicide rate, particularly of vulnerable groups. Improved communication, understanding the risk and preventative factors and access to expert support are all known to improve mental health and aid in suicide prevention.
If you’d like to get involved with volunteering or fundraising or want to find out more about some of the initiatives running in Australia, contact the following organisations for more information:
If you need urgent help or someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
If you or a loved one may be at risk of suicide due to depression or grief, counselling can help. The depression counselling services offered by Psychological Health Care can help you to work through difficult times and develop an effective treatment plan together with a trained clinical psychologist. Contact us to find out more or book an appointment.