Working towards zero: World Suicide Prevention Day

Morgan Liotta

10/09/2019 2:45:27 PM

The Australian Government has called suicide prevention a national priority, committing to a ‘zero target’.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has said that the Government’s ‘only acceptable’ goal for suicide prevention is zero.

Eight people.
That is how many die by suicide in Australia every day.
Suicide was the leading cause of death in 2017 for Australians aged 15–44.
In the same year, 3128 Australians died from suicide, an increase from 2866 from the previous year, with suicide ranked the 13th leading cause of death in 2017, up from 15th in 2016.
A new report from KPMG and commissioned by Suicide Prevention Australia, ‘Turning points: Imagine a world without suicide’, warns that suicide rates will grow by up to 40% over the next 10 years without better prevention and earlier intervention.
World Suicide Prevention Day aims to raise awareness of people experiencing mental health issues, and for collaboration between health professionals and the community to put an end to these sobering statistics.
Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Psychological Medicine network Dr Cathy Andronis told newsGP that these type of awareness initiatives help to destigmatise conversations around suicide.
‘Awareness is important because we need to be talking about suicide risks rather than ignoring them,’ she said.
‘Most people who have survived a suicide attempt are grateful that they are still alive and are especially appreciative of people who were able to listen to their deep fears that their life seemed pointless and who helped them to regain hope about their future.’
Suicide prevention is a national priority, with the Federal Government committing to a ‘zero target’, including through the Productivity Commission’s inquiry and a new National Suicide Prevention Advisor.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray believes World Suicide Prevention Day provides unique opportunity to ‘collectively shine a light on suicide prevention, both politically and at a community level’.
‘Never before have we seen so much political attention focused on suicide prevention. Governments at a state and national level are focused and some are now calling suicide prevention a priority,’ Ms Murray said.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calls for action from governments, healthcare organisations and the community to help reduce suicide rates and improve mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

‘Mental health and suicide remain one of our top priorities, as research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 2.7 times more likely to experience high levels of psychological distress than other Australians,’ Acting NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on twitter that the Government’s ‘only acceptable’ goal for suicide prevention is zero. 

Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt called on Australians to ‘help shine a light on suicide by starting a conversation that could help save a life’.
Dr Andronis highlighted the GP’s role in suicide prevention and mental health support. She said early support and intervention are key.
‘GPs can best support their patients who may be experiencing mental health issues and thinking about suicide by discussing their concerns openly and compassionately,’ she said.
‘They should ask about suicidal ideation directly and not avoid the issue.
‘If there is real concern of risk, the GP needs to instigate a safety plan, including referral to crisis assessment teams.’
Dr Andronis identifies red flags for GPs and other people connected to the patient’s life, including suicidal ideation with clear plans to end their life, and changes in usual behaviours, such as withdrawing from activities, use of drugs and alcohol, or a marked change in their mood.
‘A stressful life event, especially a relationship loss, can also be a precipitant,’ she said.
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