SPA Knowledge Exchange webinar highlights: Aftercare

Posted 3rd November 2021 in SPA Knowledge Exchange 2021

The second in a series of three Suicide Prevention Australia Knowledge Exchange webinars has explored aftercare models and best practice implementation for broad community reach.

The webinar was moderated by Matthew McLean, Director, Policy and Government relations at Suicide Prevention Australia, who introduced the first speaker, Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin PhD, Director (Technology, Innovation & Translation) at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (PREMISE).

Prof. Kay-Lambkin spoke about aftercare and eHealth: how digital tools augment the aftercare experience. Starting with an interactive poll, the audience identified the most pressing issue for the suicide prevention sector. ‘Responding to earlier distress’ took majority of the votes, followed by ‘connecting people to services and supports’, and ‘targeting groups disproportionately affected by suicide’.

Prof. Kay-Lambkin explained that statistics show there are currently not enough psychiatrists or mental health workers, with just one psychiatrist per 1,424 Australians with a mental health disorder.

To assist with this need, a new smartphone app was developed. The AVIVA app, backed by science and developed by leading experts in suicide prevention, provides online access 24/7 to people who require support, as well as coping strategies and information on suicide. When trialling the app, clinicians said it is a helpful tool for people who are suicidal, although might struggle with more complex clients with lived experience.

The second speaker, Dr Nicole Hill, Forrest Foundation Prospect Fellow and Research Fellow in Youth Suicide Prevention at Telethon Kids Institute, spoke on behalf of a team of researchers about improving aftercare for children and young people who present to the emergency department for deliberate self-harm.

Dr Hill noted that suicide is the leading cause of death in young people in Australia, and emphasised the need to direct them to the right aftercare sources. To direct young people to the right aftercare, it is important to understand what works for them and what they want to receive from care. This includes understanding self/behaviour, feeling better and having hope, exploring alternatives to self-harm, and feeling motivated.

A multi-site trial of a new therapeutic assessment intervention is currently underway to examine ways to improve the experience that children and young people have when they present to hospital emergency departments for an acute mental health crisis, with the aim of reducing the rate of youth suicide.

The third speaker was Sue Murray OAM, Managing Director at Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia (ZSIA), who spoke about Zero Suicide Healthcare (ZSH): the importance of transitions within and from care.

Sue explained that ZSH embeds protocols for better suicide care to better reduce deaths in suicide in the healthcare system. It emphasises that organisation’s have policies and procedures need to be put into place for care transitions, with healthcare staff trained to provide these safe transitions, in order to support engagement with aftercare. Strategies for safe transitions include warm hand-off where a person is introduced to their follow up care before discharge, rapid referral (i.e. follow up within 24-48 hours) and consistent caring contacts.

One of the things we need to be careful about with social determinants, Sue noted, is that we don’t neglect the healthcare system. Zero suicide healthcare is one strategy for addressing this very complex problem which needs to have multi-faceted approaches.

The final speaker was Graeme Holdsworth, a Member of the Suicide Prevention Australia Lived Experience Network, who told his story on his struggle with mental health and suicidal thoughts, eventually leading to a suicide attempt.

“I knew something was wrong when I lost my vitality, everything was a major effort, every decision was far too difficult.”

Graeme Holdsworth

Graeme’s aftercare journey started when he was referred to a psychiatrist, where he realised he had developed a serious mental illness, and following a later suicide attempt, ended up in psychiatric care.

Now, Graeme uses the acceptance and commitment therapy model (ACT), which teaches acceptance and working with illness, rather than ignoring it. This allows action that is helpful, not harmful.

Graeme ended his presentation emphasising the importance of lived experience in developing aftercare models, and the need to make early access to quality care universally available.

Life in Mind is pleased to partner with Suicide Prevention Australia for the Knowledge Exchange webinar series.

To continue exploring this topic, visit the Life in Mind webpage on aftercare: lifeinmind.org.au/aftercare

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.