Summit: strategies to stem suicide

A whole-of-government approach, timely collection of information and strengthening health networks were key actions suggested to tackle Australia’s rising suicide rate.

The recommendations were made this week following the National Suicide Prevention Summit in Canberra by the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC). The key recommendations include:

  • Make suicide prevention a whole-of-government issue and a COAG priority, including consideration of a suicide prevention taskforce, recognising that the social determinants of health are the policy focus of a range of portfolios, including for example, education, employment and housing.
  • Establish a national system for the collection, coordination and timely delivery of regional and demographic-specific information on the incidence of suicide and suicidal behaviour. Ideally, this system should have an additional focus on collecting data on psychological distress and wellbeing, to enable focused and timely preventive actions to be implemented.
  • Strengthen support for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to enable them to respond effectively to this data and deliver tailored approaches, including non-clinical community alternatives and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led interventions.

These and other recommendations were presented to the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, who had asked the NMHC to convene an urgent summit after the release of figures showing that 3,128 people took their own lives in 2017, an increase of 9.1 per cent from 2016.

Experts and community leaders, including representatives of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, came together to discuss new approaches to rising suicide rate.

Mr Hunt addressed the summit, urging participants to work together to establish a clear set of actions that he could take forward.

Summit participants highlighted the need to integrate mental health and suicide prevention across all areas of government, not just health portfolios, in recognition of the complex interaction between clinical, social and emotional factors in suicide and suicidal behaviour.

Greater community engagement and participation in both treatment and prevention was also highlighted, as was the need to implement measures aimed specifically at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

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