At least six Australian lives are taken by suicide every day,
however there continues to be a lack of public awareness about the impact of
suicide on the community. The title of the Committee's report The Hidden
Toll: Suicide in Australia reflects this situation as well as the hope that
increased public attention and support for suicide prevention can reduce the
damage it causes. The following summarises the Committee's recommendations.
The costs for individuals, families and communities affected
by suicide cannot be measured but are clearly enormous. The financial cost of
suicide is likely to be measured in the billions every year. The Committee has
recommended a detailed independent economic assessment of the cost of suicide and
attempted suicide in Australia.
The number of suicides in Australia has been underreported.
The Committee has recommended continued and expanded support for the activities
of the National Committee for Standardisation of Reporting on Suicide, the
standardisation of coronial legislation and practices, the national adoption of
a standardised police form and additional resources and training for staff in
coronial offices to improve accuracy of the statistics relating to suicide.
Frontline staff, workers in community organisations and
other 'gatekeepers' need suicide awareness and prevention training. The
Committee has recommended staff in primary care, law enforcement and emergency
services receive mandatory suicide risk assessment, prevention and awareness training,
all 'front line' staff should receive suicide awareness training and increased
access should be provided for staff in community organisations and the general
community to undertake suicide awareness and prevention training.
People who have attempted suicide, have suicidal ideation or
have received psychiatric care should be assisted and supported. The Committee
has recommended all hospital emergency departments should maintain at least one
person at all times with mental health training and the capacity to undertake
suicide risk assessments, mandatory procedures should be implemented to provide
follow up support to those leaving care, programs should link services and
agencies to improve the continuity of care for those at risk of suicide, and
additional funding should be provided for stepped accommodation.
The public awareness of suicide needs to be increased
through a long term awareness campaign and responsible reporting in the media.
The Committee has recommended a national suicide prevention and awareness
campaign using a range of media including targeted approaches to high risk
groups as well as a review of the Mindframe guidelines and current media
practices for the reporting of suicide. The Committee has also recommended
national estimates on suicide should be released at least biannually to raise
community awareness about suicide.
People seeking assistance from telephone crisis and
counselling services should not be deterred by call costs. The Committee has
recommended the Commonwealth government act to ensure affordable access to
telephone crisis services are maintained and that an implementation study be
commissioned for a national toll-free telephone crisis support service to
assist those at risk of suicide.
Access to the means of suicide must be reduced and programs
to address 'suicide hotpots' should be implemented. The Committee has
recommended funding be made available for projects to aimed at reducing access
to means of suicide and adding suicide prevention measures at 'suicide
hotspots' according to established guidelines.
Groups with an increased risk of suicide should continue to
be targeted with specific programs. The Committee has made number of recommendations:
- that there be an increase in the number of projects and funding
- that a separate strategy be developed for Indigenous communities;
that suicides by children should officially reported;
- that support group assistance should be developed for those who
attempt suicide or self harm;
- that additional resources be provided to mental health services;
- that additional suicide awareness and risk assessment training be
made available to 'gatekeepers' in regional, rural and remote areas;
- that LGBTI people be recognised in suicide prevention strategies
and policies and the development of targeted programs;
- that a national suicide bereavement strategy be developed; and
specific initiatives be developed to assist recently released
New research should focus on the efficacy of suicide
prevention interventions and results should be widely available to
practitioners and others. The Committee has recommended additional funding for
research should be provided through the National Suicide Prevention Program,
including the evaluation of suicide prevention interventions. A suicide prevention
resource centre should be established to collect and disseminate research and
best practice regarding suicide prevention.
Increased coordination of programs and services is necessary
for effective suicide prevention in Australia. The Committee has recommended a
national suicide prevention strategy with participation and funding from all
levels of government as well as collaboration with community stakeholders and
service providers. The benefits of a national suicide prevention governance and
accountability structure external to government should also be evaluated.
Increased funding of programs and support for those at risk
of suicide is necessary to reduce the number of suicides and attempted suicides
in Australia. The Committee has recommended that, at a minimum, Commonwealth
government funding should be doubled and further increases should be assessed
as the efficacy of suicide prevention interventions is established by research.
Furthermore a Suicide Prevention Foundation should be established to encourage
funding from government, business, community and philanthropic sources and to
direct these resources to priority areas of suicide prevention awareness,
research, advocacy and services. Suicide prevention project and program funding
should be provided in longer cycles to assist their success and stability.
Finally the Committee has recommended that a target should
be set by government for the reduction of suicide in Australia by 2020 to focus
the attention of the public and policy makers on suicide prevention.
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