Q&A with Simon Pont on the development of ‘Suicide Prevention: A Competency Framework'

Posted 22nd July 2021 by Gabrielle Dunlevy in General Sector update

Suicide Prevention Australia recently launched Suicide Prevention: A Competency Framework.

The new resource aims to enhance and build the confidence of organisations and employees to recognise early warning signs of suicide and respond appropriately to people experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours at work. 

The Life in Mind team spoke with Simon Pont, Director Quality Systems and Practice at Suicide Prevention Australia, about the development of the Framework. 

Question

The Framework was created in collaboration with experts in workplace suicide prevention and suicide prevention training, as well as more than 50 Suicide Prevention Australia members. How did you gather input and feedback?

Answer

Recently there has been a growth in the development of employee wellbeing initiatives, however to date this has not extended to suicide prevention. As people spend so much of their lives at work, we saw this as an essential place for people to be equipped with the skills, confidence and knowledge to recognise suicidal behaviour. In the same way that workplaces offer courses in first-aid, employees and employers should know how to intervene early with those experiencing distress and connect them to the appropriate support services.

The process involved gathering feedback and input through two rounds of consultation from 54 Suicide Prevention Australia members and 80 participants. We also worked closely with experts in workplace suicide prevention and relevant stakeholders to develop the Framework. These consultations informed the important content topics, identified gaps, and identified the level of knowledge that might be required for a particular role in each sector/industry.

Question

What gaps does the Framework fill?

Answer

Currently there is no national Framework for suicide prevention in the workplace, which means this is the first of its kind. Participants in the consultation identified that while a lot of work has been done in workplace mental health and training of ‘gatekeepers’, e.g. managers or peer leaders, to recognise those who may be experiencing suicidality and refer them to appropriate support, the Framework is an important initiative in drawing together a national set of skills, confidence and knowledge to recognise suicidal behaviour.

Ms Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission highlighted this, identifying “an imperative to build capability across workforces and across community settings to ensure a shared understanding and a consistent and compassionate approach”.

Question

How will the Framework support workplaces and employees in suicide prevention?

Answer

Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. This Framework is an important building block to help employers recognise suicidal behaviour and respond appropriately. We want to ensure that every person who needs support can access a consistent, high-quality, and safe standard of care.

Suicide prevention starts with being able to recognise the early warning signs and then responding appropriately. It is our aim that with this new Framework, we can encourage more workplaces to facilitate these conversations, reduce the stigma, and ultimately prevent deaths by suicide.

Question

How can employers use the Framework in their workplace?

Answer

Although organisations might say they don’t have anybody in their workplace who is in suicidal crisis, it’s highly likely they will have someone who has been bereaved by suicide or is caring for somebody who has experienced suicidal distress. We encourage employers to apply the Framework to the specific needs and requirements of their own workplaces and the roles within it. For example:

  • Use the Framework as a gap analysis tool for the specific roles of a workplace and identify areas for improvement;
  • Use the Framework to ensure induction, education, training and most importantly the support and wellbeing of staff, meet the core competencies such as safe communication and collaborative support;
  • Incorporate the competencies into policies and procedures and communicate them throughout the workplace.
Question

How can employees use the Framework in their workplace?

Answer

The Framework identifies the minimum standards of suicide prevention and postvention knowledge. Employees can use the Framework to see where they need to educate themselves when it comes to the skills, attitudes, attributes, and values necessary for recognising suicidal behaviour. Similar to how employers use it, employees can use it to identify gaps in their own personal knowledge.

Question

How can the suicide prevention sector and other stakeholders support the Framework?

Answer

We encourage the sector and other stakeholders to share the Framework with their networks. The more people who are aware of the Framework, the more opportunities we have to educate workplaces and equip them with the knowledge to potentially save the lives of those who may be in crisis.

Suicide Prevention: A Competency Framework