As members would be aware, in response to the Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Advice, the Australian Government announced the establishment of the National Suicide Prevention Office (NSPO) and tasked it with working across governments, portfolios, and sectors to drive the development of a nationally consistent and integrated approach to suicide prevention.
The Office was formally established in early 2022, with a vision to create an Australia where no person feels driven to take their own life. We have operated with only three members on the team until July. Since then, we have been working to recruit the expertise we need and we’re delighted to have finalised appointments in October and reach our full strength of 10 team members. To find out more about the inaugural NSPO team, please click here.
National Suicide Prevention Strategy
An immediate priority for the NSPO is the development of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. We have been heavily focused on working to finalise the scope of the Strategy to gain early feedback from partners and through public consultation. Thank you to Suicide Prevention Australia and members for your considered feedback. This will prove invaluable in ensuring the development of the Strategy starts off in the right direction. To stay informed about the development of the Strategy, register your interest in future consultations and please click here.
We will soon be uploading a register of the feedback we received on the initial scoping exercise and reflections on how we are incorporating it into our process.
Another key focus for the team this year has been to develop the relationships and partnerships required to ensure the work of the NSPO is guided and informed by partnerships with people with lived experience of suicide and draws on the diverse insights and rich combined knowledge and expertise of individuals, communities, service providers, advocates, researchers and government agencies.
To that end, the Lived Experience Partnership Group (LEPG) has been established to ensure lived experience insights and knowledge are central to the operations and work of the NSPO. A national Expression Of Interest (EOI) process of recruitment was undertaken, and we were honoured to receive 182 expressions of interest with 14 members being appointed to the LEPG. The group includes representation from every State and Territory; people with a range of lived experience; people who are new, emerging and established lived experience leaders, and people who represent a diverse range of cultural expertise. We are grateful to all who submitted your interest.
The NSPO has also recruited and appointed leaders and change makers to the NSPO Advisory Board. As the Final Advice recommended, to effectively reduce suicide, it is essential that we broaden suicide prevention efforts beyond the health portfolio to address upstream psychosocial risk factors and potential stressors that are associated with suicide.
The NSPO Advisory Board (NSPO AB) brings extensive lived experience coupled with leadership and insights from the suicide prevention sector, research institutions, government portfolios, peak bodies (including Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray) and services providing supports and solutions to address the social determinants that we know contribute to suicide.
For more information on the diverse lived experience, wisdom and expertise on the LEPG and NSPOAB please click here.
Three more partnership groups are soon to be announced.
A Jurisdictional Working Group is being convened to ensure whole-of-government collaboration across suicide prevention reform. This group will include members from States and Territories who are specifically leading government suicide prevention efforts and are able to act as conduits to broader government departments outside of health to assist in coordinating cross-government efforts at a jurisdictional level.
The National Suicide Prevention Strategy development will also be supported by two working groups which have also been recruited through a national EOI process. The working groups will include people with a high level of expertise in Governance and Social Determinants as well as Service Systems.
Meanwhile, the NSPO has been working with the University of Melbourne to further the understanding of the epidemiology of suicide through providing evidence-based models of suicide behaviour and suicide prevention, including the social determinants, protective and risk factors for suicide and the corresponding public health model for suicide prevention. As a separate but related piece of work, The University of Melbourne is also conducting an ‘environmental scan’ of government suicide prevention activity in Australia, how this operates currently, and what improvements could be made – both to help inform the development of the Strategy and National Outcomes Framework, but also inform the sector. The teams are also reviewing national and jurisdictional approaches, implementation status and planned outcome measurement of strategies and plans.
The NSPO continues its work with the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System through an important partnership with Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW that will continue to increase our capacity to derive evidence from data to inform reform initiatives. The most recent release of data in November looked at health service usage in the last 12 months of life by people who died by suicide compared to those who died by other causes. Significantly, it highlighted that people who die by suicide are more likely to be engaged in long-term mental health treatment. However, disengagement from this treatment, and an increase in GP and ED presentations, frequently occurs in the last few months of their life. For further information about this release, click here.
Finally, the team and I would like to thank all of you who have shared your support for the work of the NSPO over the year, whether in-person or through applying to join us in our work by collaborating in partnerships or through consultation. We have been touched by the continuing generosity of spirit that is shown within the suicide prevention sector and the kindness of all who wish to utilise their experience to provide better outcomes for those who follow. We know well that we cannot achieve the reform that is necessary on our own, and we are grateful to every one of you who are willing to take the journey with us.
Wishing all a safe and restorative break, and we are very much looking forward to continuing this important work with you next year.
Dr Michael Gardner, Head of the National Suicide Prevention Office