Suicide rates have steadily increased in Australia over the last 10 years but new studies are providing valuable information.
Associate Professor Judy Proudfoot, a mental health researcher at the Black Dog Institute is working with experts in Australia and New Zealand to understand the complex pathways that result in suicide, improving risk detection, determining the best way to deliver interventions and how to prioritise government programs and services.
One area of focus for the research has been suicide in men. The suicide rate among Australian men is three times greater than that for women, reaching a peak in 2015 of 19.3 deaths per 100,000 men (ABS, Causes of Death 2016).
NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention has jointly funded with Beyondblue and The Movember Foundation to conduct two studies targeting men’s mental health and suicide prevention to develop key tools and strategies in an effort to reduce the suicide rates and improve mental health in men.
“Men are less likely to seek professional help when they are depressed or stressed and they can resort to unhelpful coping strategies such as drug and alcohol abuse, withdrawing socially, gambling and overwork,” said A/Professor Proudfoot.
“Warning signs of suicide risk described by our study participants were anger and irritability, sleep problems, loss of interest in people and things, isolating themselves and not taking care of themselves.”
“Together, the two studies have provided valuable information about the early warning signs of suicidal thinking, methods to interrupt such thinking and strategies men have found useful to prevent and manage depression.’
The research led to the development of a module for men, called Man Central, in the Black Dog Institute’s online psychological treatment program for depression and anxiety —'MyCompass.’
“Man Central incorporates the techniques described by the men in our research to prevent and manage mental health issues. It is for men and by men. The online format is advantageous, in that it allows men to use it anonymously, privately and at any time of the day or night,” said A/Professor Proudfoot.
“To prevent depression, men recommended having a balanced and regular routine involving keeping physically healthy, engaging in enjoyable activities, maintaining social connections and setting goals which can be achieved. For managing depression, helpful coping strategies included exercise and healthy eating, taking time out, rewarding yourself, distracting from negative thoughts/feelings, talking to a trusted person, and reframing thoughts and feelings.”
‘Ways to interrupt suicidal thinking included reminding men how much they are loved, gently helping them to think about the consequences of suicide, listening without judgement and if possible, organising a physical activity ‘to break the spiral of thought’.’
According to researchers at Black Dog Institute they have developed LifeSpan, a new systems approach that aims to have a significant impact on suicide rates as part of Australia’s largest scientific suicide prevention trial. The LifeSpan model has been adopted in 12 sites as part of the National Suicide Prevention trials.
“Through LifeSpan, for the first time, government health agencies will be formally connected to councils, schools, emergency services, workplaces and individuals who have lived experiences in communities across Australia,” said Professor Helen Christensen, lead investigator for the Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP) and director and Chief Scientist at Black Dog Institute, wrote.
“Evidence-based suicide prevention programs will be integrated into real community settings—looking at the needs and resources available. Researchers will collect and analyse data in real time, guiding tailored improvements and enabling prioritisation of high-risk locations and populations.”
Image sourced from Flickr cc: Sinclair Terrasidius