Launch of LifeSpan and announcement of trial sites for new suicide prevention approach

4 August 2016

Today, we joined our members Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP) for the launch of a new approach to suicide prevention and announcement of trial sites in four NSW regions (Newcastle, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Gosford/Wyong and the Murrumbidgee). Implementation will be staged, with one site started every 4 months to enable accurate measurements of effectiveness and impact.

Called Lifespan, this evidence-based “systems approach” involves the simultaneous implementation of nine strategies proven to reduce suicide. It was developed in partnership with researchers, clinicians, community organisations, Indigenous health groups and people with lived experience of suicide and mental illness.

SPA CEO Sue Murray said of the launch, "We are delighted to see that an idea spawned in the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention has now, with leadership and initiative shown by our friends at Black Dog Institute, grown into four trial sites for integrated suicide prevention. The hard work is ahead of us all but it is action we are ready to take together. As Prof Helen Christensen said at the launch, this gives us three things - scale, science and sustainability."

Please see below for an extract from the Black Dog Institute press release. Full release on their website.

Australia’s largest integrated suicide prevention program expected to reduce suicides deaths by 20% and suicide attempts by 30%. According to Prof Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute and CRESP, this solution should significantly reduce suicide deaths and suicide attempts, as well as improving the lives of those living with suicidal thoughts and mental illness.

“The nine key strategies include improved access to mental health care, quality education programs for people at the front line (emergency staff, teachers, GPs), minimising access to lethal means and encouraging safe conversations about suicide in schools, workplaces and communities.”

“The key to this program, and what makes it different to anything tried before, is the intensity of the interventions – This is the first time we are implementing specially tailored and evidence-based strategies at the same time within local communities.”

“Importantly, we have incorporated the knowledge of people who have experience of suicidal thoughts in themselves or a loved one.”

“The strength of the Lifespan model is that it can be tailored and employed in any community,” says Prof Christensen, “and for this reason we have received considerable international interest in this approach, particularly from our colleagues in the US and Canada.”

“While these early stages of Lifespan are limited to NSW for reasons of funding, we have been contacted by organisations in other States and Territories and we are keen to progress work more closely with these regions.”

Lifespan is being implemented in partnership with the NSW Department of Health, Commonwealth Primary Health Networks, NSW Mental Health Commission, NSW Department of Education and local community organisations. Lifespan has been supported by a generous $14.7 million grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

More information about Lifespan, including details of the nine strategies and the four trial locations, can be found at www.lifespan.org.au.