Explainer: What is the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Advice?

Posted 29th April 2021 in Updates from the Prime Minister's National Suicide Prevention Adviser General

What is the Final Advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser?

In 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appointed the First National Suicide Prevention Adviser, Christine Morgan.

Over the next 18 months, the Adviser, along with a National Suicide Prevention Taskforce, examined suicide prevention in depth through broad engagement with a range of groups.

This led to a better understanding of the needs of people in suicidal distress and what changes across government, community and organisations would best prevent suicide.

The Final Advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser was released in April 2021 and consists of three complementary reports:

  • Compassion First – this report captures the voices of over 3,000 people with lived experience of suicide. It calls for an approach that addresses vulnerabilities long before a crisis and for a more compassionate response;
  • Connected and Compassionate – this report details the eight practical and achievable recommendations for driving change. This includes four key enablers and four key shifts to leverage the full range of services, policy drivers and resources available to governments;
  • Shifting the Focus - outlines a model for putting into operation a comprehensive whole of government approach, including a decision-making tool to be used by government portfolios.

What was the purpose of the webinar?

On 26 April 2021 Ms Morgan, joined by members of the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce, shared with the sector and community a closer look at the eight recommendations in the Final Advice in an online webinar.

Led by National Mental Health Commission Chair Lucy Brogden AM, the webinar explored a number of key areas:

  • The influence of lived experience in forming the Final Advice
  • The need for ‘whole of governments’ approach to suicide prevention
  • The ‘enablers’ and ‘shifts’ identified that would advance suicide prevention 
  • A collaborative approach to data collection to support data standardisation

Speakers at the webinar were:

  • Christine Morgan, National Suicide Prevention Adviser
  • Lucy Brogden AM, National Mental Health Commission chair
  • Hon David Coleman MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
  • Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM, Director of Everymind, former Special Advisor to the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce
  • Alan Woodward, National Mental Health Commission Advisory Board
  • Professor Patrick McGorry AO, Orygen 
  • Leilani Darwin, lived experience advisory panel 
  • Graeme Holdsworth, lived experience advisory panel 
  • Ingrid Ozols AM, lived experience advisory panel 
  • Stefanie Caminiti, lived experience advisory panel 
  • Elle Gelok, lived experience advisory panel 

Director of Everymind, Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM, who served as Special Adviser to the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce, described how the voice and knowledge of more than 3,000 people with lived experience shaped the Compassion First report.

These valuable insights allowed researchers to map the ‘journeys’ of people with first-hand experience of suicidal behaviour, to identify where there is opportunity for early intervention.

There were some correlating factors present in many journeys, which suggest the following two factors may indicate an increased likelihood of suicidality:

  • Compounding experiences across a person’s lifespan, particularly exposure to adverse events or disadvantage in early life, and
  • Experience of mental ill-health in young adulthood and ineffective support. 

Why did the Final Advice recommend the requirement of a whole of governments approach?

Dr Skehan stated Australia cannot deliver the best in suicide prevention without a shift to a ‘whole of governments’ approach one that draws on the national, state and territory governments that is supported by the whole community.

Joining the webinar via video message was Professor Patrick McGorry AO, Executive Director of Orygen, who also supported a whole of governments approach, acknowledging the existing underinvestment in upstream approaches to suicide prevention. 

What are the eight recommendations in the Final Advice?

Christine Morgan explained the four enablers and four key shifts contained in the Final Advice, as shown in this slide:

These set the scene for the eight recommendations of the Final Advice:

  1. Leadership and governance to drive a whole of government approach: All governments work together to deliver a whole of government approach – at the national (cross-jurisdictional), jurisdictional (cross-portfolio) and regional levels; with national outcomes to be developed and adopted by all governments 
  2. Lived experience knowledge and leadership: All governments commit to integrate lived experience knowledge into national priority setting, planning, design, delivery and evaluation of suicide prevention services and programs
  3. Data and evidence to drive outcomes: Recognising that measurement of outcomes is essential to monitor impacts of suicide prevention initiatives, all governments commit to work together to identify data needed for such measurement, undertake to improve the quality and timeliness of that data, and enable sharing across agencies.
  4. Workforce and community capability: All governments to commit to prioritising evidence-based and compassion-focused workforce development to drive cultural change in and improve the capacity and capability of all (formal and informal) workforces involved in suicide prevention.
  5. Responding earlier to distress: As a priority action and reform, all governments work together to develop and implement responses that provide outreach and support at the point of distress, to reduce the onset of suicidal behaviour.
  6. Connecting people to compassionate services and supports: All governments work together to progress service reform to achieve integrated, connected and quality services for people experiencing suicidal distress, people who have attempted suicide as well as caregivers and people impacted by suicidal behaviour.
  7. Targeting groups that are disproportionately impacted by suicide: All governments to apply an equity approach to suicide prevention planning and funding to prioritise targeted approaches for populations that are disproportionately impacted by suicide.
  8. Policy responses to improve security and safety: Working towards a ‘suicide prevention in all policies’ approach where all governments build capabilities within key policy teams and departments and review existing policies to enhance opportunities for improved security and enhanced safety through a National Strategy.

How can we act on the Final Advice to help save lives?

One of the key themes presented by all speakers at the webinar was the hope that change is possible to prevent suicide deaths. This was particularly apparent for the lived experience speakers - Leilani Darwin, Graeme Holdsworth, Ingrid Ozols AM, Stefanie Caminiti, and Elle Gelok.

Alan Woodward, also of the National Mental Health Commission, spoke about the Shifting the Focus report, which details a more compassionate and connected approach to suicide prevention, where all government agencies and services can better respond to distress and connect people to supports.

This approach talks about the many ‘touchpoints’ – or moments where governments interact with people throughout their lives - which are all opportunities to offer services and support earlier, to help prevent suicidal distress.

What happens next?

In a message to the webinar, the Hon. David Coleman MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, said the federal government would respond to the Final Advice in coming months, including at next month’s Federal Budget.

Ms Morgan called on members of the community to read and act on the recommendations in the Final Advice, to build momentum for suicide prevention alongside the government response.