Evaluation of suicide prevention activities

9.3 Improving effectiveness

Page last updated: January 2014

The information presented about improving project-level effectiveness was derived from three sources:

  • Thematic analysis of project data/documentation
  • Survey responses
  • Comments from project staff made during the workshops
The following three sub-sections identify:

9.3.1 Project design issues

Some projects acknowledged weaknesses in project design that were considered to have influenced project effectiveness. These included:
  • Duplication between service providers
  • Inappropriateness of resources or training programs, eg, culturally inappropriate, inappropriate to literacy level
  • Poor governance, eg, dissolving stakeholder reference groups, out-dated policies and procedures
  • Misjudged demand for services
  • Registration forms not able to be used
  • Sub-optimal communication with stakeholders leading to a lack of clarity around project purpose/activities.

9.3.2 Data and evaluation issues

A number of projects reported sub-optimal data collection and evaluation processes that limited their ability to measure effectiveness. These included:
  • Inadequate baseline data collection
  • Limited evaluation data collection, eg, clinical outcomes
  • Difficulties recruiting clients for interview (eg, to enable exploration of qualitative barriers and enablers related to pathways to care)
  • Inconsistent record keeping, making it difficult to track clients and measure progress
  • Insufficient documentation of referral pathways/destinations
  • Difficulties administering measurement tools (eg, pre-post workshop surveys) or collecting data on some service users. For some older men, for example, the need to document personal details was described as a barrier to service usage. Similarly, completing follow-up assessments of young people from refugee backgrounds was difficult.
  • Inadequate documentation of suicide related behaviours or deliberate self-harm for people presenting to emergency departments Top of page

9.3.3 Other suggested improvements

Of the 49 NSPP-funded projects examined, 35 provided comments in response to questions about suggestions to improve program/project effectiveness. The most common suggested areas for improvement were in relation to:
  • Funding
  • Collaboration and coordination
  • Project support


Almost half of the projects (16 of 35) that commented on potential ways to improve effectiveness cited funding as an issue. Ten of these 16 respondents reported that expansion of their project was not possible because of funding uncertainty or lack of funds for expansion. A number of respondents recommended longer funded periods.

Collaboration and coordination

Almost one third of respondents (11 of 35) suggested that improved collaboration with other suicide prevention projects would increase effectiveness by developing a better understanding of the work of other NSPP-funded projects and encouraging closer links with national initiatives and promotional campaigns.

More than one-quarter of projects (10 of 35) suggested that enhancing communication between NSPP-funded organisations would improve program effectiveness. Suggested methods of improving communication included presentations, conferences, workshops and other networking opportunities, as well as a telephone information service.

It was also suggested that the links between researchers and practitioners could be strengthened.

Project support

Several projects requested assistance with program development and evaluation to both increase effectiveness and enable demonstration of effectiveness. One project expressed a desire for evaluation support in order to ensure that project activities are 'doing no harm'. Top of page

Key findings

Projects reported that:
  • Some project-specific design issues impacted effectiveness.
  • Suboptimal data collection and evaluation limited projects' ability to measure effectiveness.
  • Other suggestions by project staff for improving project effectiveness were:
    • Increasing funding amounts and periods
    • Improving collaboration with, and coordination between, funded organisations
    • Providing support for organisations to improve capabilities in project development and evaluation