Systems-based approach considered best suited for preventing suicide

Posted 16th December 2022 in Research news

A recently released discussion paper commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care explored some of the key considerations for designing and implementing a systems-based approach for suicide prevention.

The paper presented the combined findings from three suicide prevention trials implemented across Australia, including:

  • National Suicide Prevention Trials
  • Place-based Suicide Prevention Trials
  • LifeSpan Suicide Prevention Trials.

Suicide is a complex issue and the causes of suicidal distress are multifaceted and are strongly linked to social determinants of health. The paper found that a systems-based approach is considered to be best suited for tackling complex social issues such as suicide. This means suicide prevention is not merely a concern for the health sector; it concerns education, welfare, justice, media and more. A systems-based approach recognises the multisectoral nature of an issue, assists collaboration between different components of an approach and ensures that they’re targeted to community needs.

Each of these trials utilised a systems-based approach, incorporating multiple evidence-based preventative interventions that are implemented simultaneously in a defined region.

Seven key considerations were identified for designing and implementing a systems-based approach to suicide prevention:

  • Acknowledging critical Primary Health Network (PHN) priorities around coordinating partnerships, facilitating governance and leading the translation of knowledge
  • Adopting effective co-design and co-delivery practices with both the local communities and those with a lived experience of suicide
  • Prioritising diverse and hard-to-reach cohorts
  • Ensuring evaluation approaches and methodology allow for continuous improvement from the outset
  • Integrating evaluation approaches that facilitate developmental evaluation that enables continuous learning as findings are generated and embracing implementation science approaches
  • Allowing for longer-term trials to build the required partnerships and system buy-in for effective implementation and long-term sustainability
  • Developing clear outcome measures that can be monitored and measured as part of an evaluation framework that also considers preliminary and implementation outcomes.

The paper emphasised that these considerations are a starting point for further exploration and discussion of the complex, multifaceted challenge of suicide prevention. Each are intended to support the roll-out and implementation of future regional initiates for suicide prevention.

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