Evaluation of suicide prevention activities

3.4 Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Suicide in Australia

Page last updated: January 2014

Growing recognition of the high personal, social and financial costs of suicide led to the commissioning of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Suicide in Australia. The committee's report, The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia was released on 24 June 2010.12 Its recommendations, which covered all aspects of suicide prevention, are summarised below:

  • Improve the accuracy of suicide statistics through standardising coronial reporting and process and police reporting
  • Provide suicide awareness and prevention training for frontline staff, workers in community organisations and other gatekeepers
  • Improve assessment, care, continuity of care and follow-up care in the health setting for people who have attempted suicide, have suicidal ideation or have an existing mental health problem
  • Undertake long-term suicide awareness campaigns including targeted approaches to high-risk groups
  • Encourage responsible reporting of suicide in the media
  • Ensure affordable access to telephone crisis services
  • Reduce access to means for suicide
  • Add suicide prevention measures at suicide hotspots.
In addition, the Committee made a number of specific recommendations to include interventions and resources for high-risk groups, to improve the effectiveness of existing interventions and to expand reach. These recommendations included:
  • Improve evidence on the efficacy of suicide prevention interventions and access to this evidence
  • Increase funding through the NSPP for research and evaluation of suicide prevention interventions
  • Improve coordination of programs and services through a National Suicide Prevention Strategy that involves participation and funding from all levels of government and collaboration with community stakeholders and service providers
  • Explore the benefits of an external governance and accountability structure for national suicide prevention
  • Increase funding of programs and support for people at risk of suicide
  • Establish a Suicide Prevention Foundation to encourage and direct funding from all sectors into suicide prevention awareness, research, advocacy and services
  • Provide longer funding cycles for suicide program funding to assist in success and stability
  • Establish targets to reduce the suicide rate.
The Inquiry raised a number of issues in relation to the NSPS and the NSPP, including:
  • The NSPS has resulted in fragmented services for those at risk of suicide, and there is no agency at the national or state/territory level with the mandate to address suicide and suicide prevention. For example, responsibility for mortality data collection, morbidity data collection, funding for program initiatives, research, services, advocacy, and self-help/support groups rests with different groups/organisations.
  • More substantial collaborative structures and mechanisms are needed to better link up all levels of government, stakeholders, communities and consumers.
  • The NSPS is not a National Strategy because it was not a formal agreement signed by all governments (this occurred subsequently in September 2011 through the Australian Health Ministers Conference (AHMC)).
  • There was uncertainty over whether the LIFE Framework constituted 'The Strategy' or was a 'supporting resource'.
  • The Inquiry recommended that an aspirational target for the reduction in suicides be set as part of the strategy.

12 Senate Community Affairs References Committee, The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010.