FEATURE30 April 2020

Learning lessons on suicide prevention

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More than five years ago, specific actions took place in Australia to help reduce suicide rates. Paul Vittles writes about what was done and what other countries can learn from it.


In most developed countries, more people aged 15 to 44 years old die by suicide than by any other means, despite most suicides being preventable.

This tragic conundrum has led to a growing role for research(ers) to provide breakthrough insights and evidence of what ‘works’ in reducing suicide rates.

There was a step change in Australia around 2013-14, for a number of reasons. Many advocates were becoming stronger voices and forming alliances with researchers. The Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) body was led by CEO Sue Murray, who now heads the new Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia. A National Coalition for Suicide Prevention was formed, with key stakeholders coming together in a ‘collective impact’ approach.

Research had a higher profile, with more emphasis on impact. Increasingly, research was being published, showing which groups were most at risk – Aboriginal and LGBT people, and farmers.

Some research shocked. Public health data showed that one in four of those who died by suicide ...