Professor Rory O’Connor of the University of Glasgow was the international keynote speaker on Day 2 of the SPA Symposium, presenting a range of early data captured on suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the UK and elsewhere.
Key points from Professor O’Connor’s talk were:
- COVID-19 and its longer term economic impact has exacerbated inequalities globally which may impact suicide rates in the future. Initial data collected globally did not indicate an increase in suicide for 2020 despite media reports predicting otherwise.
- However, data is not representative of all countries and ongoing monitoring and prevention actions will be required to mitigate the medium and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- It’s important that researchers continue to share data to monitor and respond to the level of psychological distress and suicidality populations may experience as a result of COVID-19. Ongoing collaboration in research is encouraged.
- The COVID-19 pandemic increases people’s sense of defeat and entrapment, which have been identified as integral factors for suicide. Mental health must be central to the ongoing pandemic response.
- Now is the time to act to prevent suicide deaths in the medium and long term.
Thought-provoking content from three minute thesis style presentations
Suicide risk in online help-seekers
Christopher Rainbow, Project Manager Suicide Prevention at Beyond Blue, explored the potential gap in suicide prevention between people visiting the Beyond Blue website, undertaking a Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10 test), and engaging with support services after the K10 test result. Mr Rainbow suggested the benefit of using online screening tests such as the K10 to provide that person with tailored help information.
The Lifebuoy app: the development of a smartphone app for managing suicidal thoughts in young people
Dr Jin Han, Research Fellow at the Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales, shared with delegates the benefit of the Lifebouy app for suicide prevention in young people. Dr Han pointed out that with young people spending at least five hours per day using technology-based apps, there was great potential to deliver suicide prevention support to them through an app. Lifebouy incorporates a range of personalised features, dialectical behaviour therapy, and connects young people to health services.
Moving beyond the fear of death: Suicide capacity within the ideation-to-action framework
Luke Bayliss, PhD Candidate at the University Of Southern Queensland, posed some interesting questions about the difference between someone who thinks about suicide, and someone who acts on suicidal thoughts. His thesis explores how and to whom suicide capacity occurs, and the benefit of open conversation with people who may be experiencing suicide ideation, but who do not have capacity for suicide.
What works for rural youth suicide prevention?
Laura Grattidge, Project Manager at the Centre for Rural Health, and PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania discussed what is most effective in preventing suicide in young people living in rural areas. She put forward the notion that the evidence suggests that community is the number one factor in a young person’s life with the largest role in reducing youth suicide in rural populations.
Wrapping up day 2 of #SuicidePrevention21 with a panel discussion on psychological and social risk factors. This live discussion includes speakers from New York and Scotland. A truly global approach to #SuicidePrevention @suicideresearch— SuicidePreventionAUS (@SuicidePrevAU) April 20, 2021
Session sponsor: @MATESConstruct pic.twitter.com/OQQRgQKTO5
Panel discussion on psychological and social risk factors
A panel of leaders in suicide prevention closed Day 2: Professor Rory O’Connor, Associate Professor Tony Pisani (University of Rochester), Professor Jane Pirkis (University Of Melbourne), Tom Brideson (Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia), Daniel Comensoli (LGBTIQ+ Health Australia) and Dr Alana Peters (KPMG), moderated by Chris Lockwood (MATES in Construction).
The panel highlighted the need for tailored responses, acknowledging that not all communities would engage with general messaging or mainstream service approaches. This is particularly relevant to the way services are developed – with consumers needing to be at the centre of service design.
The panelists also noted that solutions don’t only come from the health sector - real change and real solutions need to come from other areas to address the social and economic factors that impact on mental health and suicide risk.
The Life in Mind team will be live tweeting the Suicide Prevention Australia 2021 symposium from April 19-22. Follow Life in Mind on Twitter @LifeinMindAU