Crisis Response and the Role of Emergency Services and First Responders

1 June 2010
Note: Currently under review. First response to suicide is the initial contact with a person who considers, threatens or attempts suicide. It includes the discovery of a death suspected to be by suicide. The incidental care and the formal treatment that follow a suicide attempt at the first point of health care contact is part of the first response continuum and, for the purposes of this position statement, includes the referral of patients to appropriate secondary points of care. Crisis and first response services are not integrated under the National Suicide Prevention Strategy (NSPS). Suicide response by emergency services falls under the auspices of mental and general health responsibilities, and is not targeted by suicide specific funding. Emergency services (ambulance, police and emergency departments (EDs)) should be recognised as key suicide prevention providers under the NSPS. Individual compassion and understanding of suicide and mental illness are necessary to providing effective response.This applies to family and community responders as well as professionals and carers. The position statement was launched on 1st June in Canberra by the Attorney-General and ACT Minister for Police Simon Corbell to a receptive gathering of emergency personnel (both field and executive), union representatives, media, Lifeline and a cross section of local carers and support services from the ACT. Also present at the launch was Senator Judith Adams of Western Australia who addressed the gathering and told of her personal experience having worked previously as a nurse. SPA was pleased to have Ms Dawn O’Neil, Chief Executive Officer, Lifeline Australia (now CEO of beyondblue) and Dr Michael Dudley, Chairperson, Suicide Prevention Australia co-chair the Reference Group for this position statement.