Life in Mind speaks to Professor Jane Pirkis on research in prevention of suicide in males

Posted 10th July 2020 by Kristen Vallender in Research

In May, the Australian Government announced additional funding towards research to improve the national mental health system response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This funding will support various research projects as part of the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission, to better understand suicide and provide the right services.

One of the recipients to receive the grant is The University of Melbourne, led by Professor Jane Pirkis. $5.6 million will be dedicated to research in the prevention of suicide in boys and men. 

Life in Mind has been working with Professor Jane Pirkis and other researchers on the National Leadership in Suicide Prevention Research project which links researchers with interests in suicide-related information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The team at the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with Life in Mind, collates this research, and it is showcased on the Life in Mind national suicide prevention online portal.

The team spoke to Professor Pirkis about the grant and her work in the prevention of suicide in males. 

Can you tell us more about the research you’re doing into the prevention of suicide in boys and men (funded under the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission)? 

There are seven interventions – five of them are universal/selective or upstream interventions designed to encourage boys and men to reach out if they are facing tough times, and two of them are indicated or downstream interventions designed to ensure that if boys and men do seek help, then the services they go to are appealing and appropriate for them. 

How can researchers provide context to the public in communicating the complexity of suicide causes and data?

I really think sound research is essential for ensuring that the public understands that suicide is an extremely complex issue. We need the best available evidence regarding what works and what doesn’t work in suicide prevention, and we can only get this by doing really solid research. That’s not to say that we should sit on our hands until all the evidence is in – we obviously need to be trying a whole range of approaches to prevent suicide in the meantime. But there is an onus on researchers and on those who are responsible for funding and delivering suicide prevention activities to make sure that they are properly evaluated so that we can build the evidence base.

Why is it so important that male suicide prevention be a national priority?

This one is simple. Three quarters of all suicides are by boys and men. Preventing suicide among boys and men would go further than any other single approach to achieving the Prime Minister’s goal of working towards zero suicides.


Learn more about Professor Jane Pirkis via the Life in Mind researcher directory

Read more about the Australian Government funding announcement here

If you are an Australian researcher planning or already conducting suicide-related research regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, please email: research-leaders@unimelb.edu.au

To find out more about the National Leadership in Suicide Prevention Research project, visit https://lifeinmindaustralia.com.au/research/australian-covid-19-suicide-research