Minds Together for family and friends supporting someone who has attempted suicide

Chief Investigator: Dr Sally Fitzpatrick

Co-Investigators: Dr Philippa Ditton-Phare, Dr Jose Cuenca, Dr Elloyse Fitzgeraldson, Andrew McMahon, Laura Hanlon, Lyndon Bell, Elle Glasic and Chloe Brown

Partner organisation: Everymind 

Evidence gap 

Suicide attempt is one of the multiple risk factors for suicide in Australia. As a result, the care people receive after attempting suicide (often called aftercare) is a high priority for researchers and service providers. Engagement with these services, programs and resources mainly relies on people in suicidal distress presenting to health services. Research indicates that many people who experience suicidal distress may never present to professional services, meaning a significant portion of people will not receive formal support. 

Whether or not someone experiencing suicidal distress receives professional interventions from service providers, most of the emotional and practical support is provided by an individual’s social support network – their family and friends. Research highlights the critical role family and friends undertake, often without formal training or compensation and without realising their commitment to a caregiving role. This support role can be an essential protective factor in reducing further suicidal distress, facilitating recovery and having a positive impact on managing issues such as social isolation and depression. The role of providing support is often rewarding. However, when caring for someone experiencing suicidal distress, family and friends may also need support themselves. 

Minds Together for family and friends of someone who has attempted suicide – an online approach 

Minds Together is a suite of programs and resources developed to support the mental health and wellbeing of those who care for someone experiencing mental health concerns or suicidal distress. The programs aim to build the skills, knowledge and confidence of family and friends and promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing for caregivers. The current project tested the feasibility and acceptability of a program tailored for family and friends supporting someone who has attempted suicide.  

This specific program consists of three main sections focused on the caregiving role and looking after yourself as a support person. Additionally, there are six in-depth topics relevant to supporting someone who has attempted suicide, such as talking about suicide, stigma and hypervigilance. 

The program includes interactive activities, multimedia content and stories from people with lived and living experience. An online social support forum has also been integrated as an essential factor in reducing mental health concerns in family and friends. 

Summary of outcomes 

Promotion of the research and program reached over half a million people and engaged 76 research participants. The program was found to be feasible, acceptable and safe to use with no adverse effects, and 80% of family and friends found activities and content summaries practical and would recommend the program to others. Outcomes of caregiver strain, psychological distress, severity of suicidal thoughts, coping self-efficacy and quality of life will be assessed in a future efficacy trial with a larger sample size. 

“Giving myself permission to take time to do what I need/want to do – improved communication with the person I care for and helped us consider each other’s perspectives.”

– Parent of someone who has attempted suicide. 

“I have been able to refer to some of the ideas and experiences shared in the materials provided in the program. Especially around prioritising self-care.”

– Parent of someone who has attempted suicide. 

Future directions 

  • Interventions must be embedded into the spaces where we live, work and play to ensure people receive timely information and support.  
  • Relying solely on mass media promotions and stakeholder referrals is not enough to engage family and friends in supporting individuals with mental health concerns or suicidal distress. 
  • Everymind has partnered with the NSW government to embed the Minds Together online program for family and friends supporting someone who has attempted suicide into aftercare and other services.