‘Now is not the time to slow down’: Start considering your feedback for the Australian National Strategy

Dan Mobbs. 

We have come a long way in the suicide prevention sector. However, the number of lives that continue to be lost tells us we still have a long way to go and a new approach is needed. 

At the Suicide Prevention Australia Conference on Tuesday, Dr Michael Gardner (Head of the National Suicide Prevention Office, or NSPO) presented on the new national strategy. He detailed the extensive work to ground the strategy in evidence, including the voices of lived experience, and engagement across government portfolios to achieve a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention.

The National Strategy will focus on two key domains, (1) the prevention of suicidal distress by moving suicide prevention interventions “upstream”, targeting key objectives that promote protective factors in the community and reduce known drivers of distress, and (2) to enhance the capacity of the care system to ensure that it supports those in suicidal distress with a compassionate, accessible, and effective system.  

The National Suicide Prevention Strategy is due to be released for public feedback. The panel session made it clear that those who work in suicide prevention are eager for the release of the draft for consultation. However, we cannot and should not wait for the official release. We can be thinking about what we need this whole government strategy to achieve. 

At SafeSide, we spend time thinking about programs that work across the full spectrum of suicide prevention from care systems (our SafeSide Programs) to upstream prevention programs with evidence of effectiveness (Connect). 

I was fortunate to have been selected for the Service Systems working group with the NSPO, so I have seen many of the iterations of the strategy.  

What really struck me about Dr Gardiner’s presentation yesterday was the depth of consultation throughout the process and how, even though the phrase “upstream suicide prevention” is nothing new, the work done by NSPO nicely articulated how it can be broken down in terms of what prevention actually is.

  1. Safety and Security: Prevention is to improve safety and security and address risk. 
  2. Good health: Prevention is analysing health outcomes and mitigating risks. 
  3. Economic Security: Prevention is to provide economic stability and reduce uncertainty. 
  4. Social inclusion: Prevention is ensuring communities are connected. 
  5. Life transitions: Prevention is supporting people through changes and transitions. 

We have come a long way in the field of suicide prevention, but now is not the time to slow down. 

I urge you to consider what we need from this essential strategy so that when the time comes to give feedback, you can make a meaningful contribution. 

We must make sure we take every advantage of this opportunity to shape how our country tackles suicide because nine lives lost every day is nine too many. 

Dan Mobbs

Director of Workforce Education & Innovation

SafeSide Prevention

Acknowledgement of Country
SafeSide Prevention acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work. We recognise and respect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of this country. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Acknowledgement of Lived Experience
We acknowledge the lived experience of those with suicide and mental illness, their families and carers. Their preferences, wishes, needs, and aspirations are at the heart of all the work we do.

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