LIFE in the South West of Western Australia – A Study of Existing Suicide Prevention Services

The LIFE in the South West of Western Australia – A Study of Existing Suicide Prevention Services project was coordinated by researchers from Edith Cowan University, led by Professor Brian English.

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 WA, the State Suicide Prevention Strategy 2009 – 2013 uses this framework to guide future suicide prevention initiatives. Two of the action areas identified in the LIFE framework provided a focus for this research project, namely;

  • Provision of targeted suicide prevention activities
  • Taking a coordinated approach to suicide prevention

In relation to those action areas, the three outcomes of interest included:

  • Improved access to a range of support and care for people feeling suicidal
  • Improved understanding, skills and capacity of front-line workers
  • Effective links between local services so that people experience a seamless service

The LIFE framework also identifies eight domains of intervention with six domains for individual services, namely indicated intervention, symptom identification, early treatment, standard treatment, longer term treatment and support and, ongoing care and support.

The action areas and domains of intervention 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 improvements 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 findings of the research included:

  • The overall suicide rates in the South West are not significantly different to the rest of WA. There are 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 considered 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 considered that working with at-risk groups/ communities to build resilience and promote help seeking behaviour was their responsibility.
  • Collaboration and partnerships 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).
  • 70% of NGO’s and 50% of WA Country Health Service (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, led by Professor Cobie Rudd at ECU.

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