Highlights from the IASP 31st World Congress 2021 - Day 3

Posted 24th September 2021

The Life in Mind team collated five highlights from day three of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) 31st World Congress and presents them here – in no particular order.

  • Professor Diego De Leo, from Griffith University, highlighted a number of key research studies that have investigated the link between loneliness and suicide. Loneliness, isolation and lack of social interaction are important risk factors for suicide, even after taking into account the influence of mood disorders. Depression has also been shown to be an important mediating factor, in that 11-18% of cases of depression could potentially be prevented if loneliness was eliminated. This suggests that a sense of loneliness, rather than physical isolation, is important to target in suicide prevention efforts, and fostering a sense of belonging and social connection is key. However, different interventions may be needed for social isolation vs. loneliness.
  • From Colorado State University, Dr Silvia Canetto focussed on women suicide rates in China, as women are the majority of suicide descendants in China and are commonly women of reproductive age - young adult women. This challenge’s the dominant theory that suicide is against women’s nature, particularly during women’s reproductive use when presumably the survival and maternal instincts make it impossible for women to conceive of suicide. Of particular note, marriage and children are a suicide risk for women in China. Women who are married had suicide rates three times higher than women who had never married. They also had significantly less social support. This also challenges the theory that married women who are unemployed and their life centres around housework and childcare, are particularly protected. China’s drop in female suicidality since 2000 coincides with urbanisation and with females increased participation in the paid labour force. For women and men, paid employment and urban living are protective factors.
  • Ms Shelby Rowe, Suicide Prevention Resource Center/AAS, explained that for many years there has been a push for providing trauma-informed care, but when it comes to caring for Indigenous women, people often overlook something - you can’t have trauma-informed suicide prevention or trauma-informed mental health care without justice. As a suicide attempt survivor, Ms Rowe emphasised that instead of looking at why so many Indigenous women are dying by suicide, we should acknowledge how remarkable it is that so many are still alive.

“I believe the difference between a tragic tale and an inspiring story is how it is told. I want to tell stories about our strength and our resilience because we are still here.”

Shelby Rowe
  • Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, psychiatrist, explained that the highest rate of suicide in women are all in low income countries. Almost 110,000 deaths by females are in India and China, which is much greater than other countries. Dr Vijayakumar described suicide prevention strategies to include education; economic security; prohibition of child marriage, forced marriage and dowry; reduced violence against women; and investment in women’s suicide prevention programs.
  • From United Suicide Survivors International, Dr Sally Spencer-Thomas emphasised the importance of providing leaders with talking points in discussing delicate issues in the workplace and providing reassurance that they’re on the right path. Dr Spencer Thomas detailed the stratified suicide prevention training program for the workplace, including gatekeeper training. 
If you or someone you know has been impacted by this information or needs help, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, phone emergency services on 000. 
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