IASP 31st World Congress highlights from Professor Phil Batterham

Posted 11th October 2021 in IASP 31st World Congress

The Life in Mind team spoke to Professor Phil Batterham, from the Centre for Mental Health Research at The Australian National University, who shared his highlights from the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) 31st World Congress in September.

Question

Tell us your key areas of interest?

Answer

My research areas include suicide prevention; suicide stigma; help seeking; digital interventions; and measurement.

Question

What was one key lesson from overseas experience that you feel could inform Australia’s ongoing reform and approach to suicide prevention?

Answer

There were some insightful discussions at the Congress around how people disclose and respond to suicide-related content on the internet and in the community. There are still gaps in our knowledge about how best to respond to suicidal disclosures in community, online, and in the media. There is a slightly delicate balance between reducing the stigma of suicide versus normalising suicidal experience to the extent that people feel that they do not need to reach out for support.

(Based on presentations by Cathy Brennan, Lisa Sharwood, Nina Krohne, Margot van der Burgt)

Question

Please share key insights that resonated with you, that may contribute to your area of expertise or ways of working?

Answer

The impact of COVID in other countries on suicide has been similar to the Australian experience, with no clear increases in suicidal ideation or attempts, but increases in the use of crisis services and helplines. The reason for this slight disconnection in outcomes is not entirely clear, but it suggests that the pandemic has magnified existing disparities. It is likely that people with existing mental health conditions and suicidal distress are struggling more with the pandemic, rather than seeing a population-wide increase in the incidence of mental ill health and suicidal distress. Some of the findings from the Conference also reflect some potential protective effects of the pandemic for some people, such as spending more time with supportive connections and reductions in certain stressors.

(Based on presentations by me, Rory O’Connor, Marc Bryant, Jackson Newberry-Dupe, I-Ting Hwang, Jerneja Sveticic and others)

Question

Was there anything surprising (innovation, findings, etc.) you learned from the conference?

Answer

Systems approaches are being used to increase the impact of suicide prevention activity in communities, schools and healthcare settings, as well as being applied to stigma reduction. Multilevel or multicomponent suicide prevention approaches are challenging to implement and it can be difficult to establish their impact. Creative and ambitious action, underpinned by rigorous research and lived experience partnerships is needed to progress the field.

(Based on presentations by Fiona Shand, Lisa Sharwood, Penelope Sweeting, Margot van der Burgt, Bronwen Edwards and others)

Read more from Professor Phil Batterham:

Twitter: @pbatterham