Evaluation of suicide prevention activities

7.6 Universal approaches

Page last updated: January 2014

Drawing on the peer-reviewed literature, a summary of the current evidence/best practice related to universal approaches is provided below.

Summary of current evidence/best practice 61,62,63,64

There is good evidence that universal approaches aimed at reducing access to the means of suicide (such as firearms, pesticides, or building barriers at jumping sites) are effective suicide prevention strategies.

There is promising evidence for the effectiveness of media guidelines for appropriate reporting of suicide as a universal approach to suicide prevention.

There is some evidence for universal approaches involving awareness-raising aimed at improving knowledge or literacy about mental illness or suicidal behaviour. However, it has been suggested that generic population-based approaches are less likely to be effective than programs that target more specifically-defined sub-groups. Awareness-raising approaches need to be coupled with accessible, appropriate services.

Findings in relation to NSPP-funded activities

None of the in-scope NSPP-funded projects specifically aimed to reduce access to means of suicide. Improving safety at 'hot spots' became a key component of the TATS package, which was released in 2010 in response to the Senate Inquiry: The Hidden Toll, the report on the Senate inquiry into Suicide (see Section 3.4 and Section 3.5). Projects funded to address hot spots are not part of this Evaluation.

Two projects focussed on improving media reporting of suicide and mental illness.

Awareness-raising and promotion of help-seeking was evident at two levels within the NSPP-funded projects. Two projects had a primary focus on awareness-raising and promotion of help-seeking on a national scale while a number of other projects included awareness-raising in specific settings as a component of their activities.

Key findings

NSPP-funded projects included a number of projects that used universal approaches to address:
  • Media reporting of suicide and mental illness
  • Awareness-raising and promotion of help-seeking

61 Beautrais et al, 'Effective Strategies for Suicide Prevention in New Zealand'.
62 Mann et al, 'Suicide Prevention Strategies'.
63 Nordentoft, 'Crucial Elements in Suicide Prevention Strategies'.
64 van der Feltz-Cornelis et al, 'Best Practice Elements of Multilevel Suicide Prevention Strategies'.