LIFE in the South West of Western Australia – A study of existing suicide prevention services

LIFE in the South West of Western Australia – A study of existing suicide prevention services

A project run in partnership with Edith Cowan University. The research was conducted by a team led by Professor Brian English of Edith Cowan University.
Suicide prevention presents a significant challenge not only in Australia but internationally. The Living Is For Everyone (LIFE) framework has been adopted across Australia in response to this challenge. In W.A. the State Suicide Prevention Strategy 2009 – 13 uses this framework to guide future suicide prevention initiatives. Two of the ‘action areas’ identified in the LIFE framework provided a focus for the present research, viz. ‘provision of targeted suicide prevention activities’, and ‘taking a coordinated approach to suicide prevention’.
In relation to those action areas three outcomes were of interest: (1) ‘improved access to a range of support and care for people feeling suicidal’, (2) ‘improved understanding, skills and capacity of front-line workers’ and (3) ‘local services linking effectively so that people experience a seamless service’.
The LIFE framework also identifies 8 domains of intervention with six domains for individual services viz. ‘indicated intervention’, and ‘symptom identification’, ‘early treatment’, ‘standard treatment’, ‘longer term treatment and support’ and ‘ongoing care and support’. These ‘action areas’ and ‘domain’ elements framed the research questions addressed in this report.
The purpose of the research was to provide an on-ground assessment of suicide prevention services in the South West mapped back to the LIFE Framework, and identify areas where improvement could be made. The research aimed to benefit local service providers, policy makers and funders to inform them of priority areas for attention.

The key positive findings of the research are:

  • The overall suicide rates in the South West are not significantly different to the State, there are however some areas of significance at a Health District (HD) level. There is a significantly higher suicide rate in the Warren Health District.
  • There appeared to be only a few major differences between Health Districts in the SW with regards to psychosocial stressors and suicidal behaviour associated with completed suicides. (The only exception was Warren HD).
  • The majority of Community based Mental Health staff saw that working with at-risk groups/ communities to provide services from early intervention to longer term support for people at risk of suicide was their responsibility (that is, lay within the scope of their responsibilities).
  • The majority of Community based Mental Health staff saw that working with at-risk groups/ communities to build resilience and promote help seeking behaviour was their responsibility.
  • Collaboration and partnership where undertaken in the community sector were felt to be beneficial. There was a high level of interest to work collaboratively.
  • All Health Districts do have access to a wide range of practitioners considered to have a role in suicide prevention (though the times of availability may not coincide with individual client/ patient needs).
  • Collation of research to identify stress factors within a community that may increase risk of suicidal behaviour.
  • 70% of NGO’s and 50% of WACHS Community based staff and Allied Health Professionals had undertaken suicide prevention training in the past three years.

The research report (English and Devereux 2011) provides a baseline dataset and current interpretation relevant to the adequacy of services as at 2011.

This research significantly changed the rollout of the One Life program as well as assisting in the redraft of legislation at the level of the parliamentary legal team. An additional outcome has been the ECU Suicide Prevention Training project (“Investigation of the merits of simulation-based video materials on inter-professional practice in community-based suicide prevention training”. Professor Cobie Rudd, ECU – another project supported by the Val Lishman Health Research Foundation).

English, B.J., & Devereux, J.C. (2011). LIFE in the South West of Western Australia: A study of existing suicide prevention services. Western Australia: Edith Cowan University.

 Life in the South West Final report

 Suicide Prevention Core Research Information