For every suicide there are many more people – family, friends, carers, colleagues and communities – who are deeply affected.
There is no single cause of suicide, and no simple solution to prevent it. Suicide can affect anyone, but some individuals and groups may be more at risk.
For example, although suicide rates are lower among young people than other age groups, suicides account for more deaths than other causes for this group, including road trauma.
The suicide rate in the Aboriginal population is twice that of the general population rate, with young Aboriginal persons being at highest risk.
Every single death tells a unique story, but each has the same underlying message for our community. We need to do more to prevent suicide.
There is a strong and concerted effort underway to reduce suicide in Victoria. The Victorian Government's strategic approach to suicide prevention involves five key objectives.
Halving Victoria's suicide rate by 2025
Objective 1: Build resilience
Improve individual and community strengths and capacity to prevent suicide. Build resilience across the Victorian Government, including in schools and health and emergency services.
Objective 2: Support vulnerable people
Unite behind groups who are at a higher risk of psychological distress and suicide. This includes early responses to concerns among dairy farmers, regional communities, Aboriginal communities, emergency service workers, paramedics, police, at risk occupations (such as construction and trucking) and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
Objective 3: Care for the suicidal person
Strengthen approaches to assertive outreach and personal care when a person who has attempted suicide leaves hospital or an emergency department.
Objective 4: Learn what works best
Test and evaluate suicide prevention initiatives and share data with local communities.
Objective 5: Help local communities to prevent suicide
Trial a coordinated approach to suicide prevention, implemented at a local community level.
Suicide prevention – flagship initiatives
The Victorian Budget 2016-17 provided $27 million over four years to support two flagship initiatives: place-based suicide prevention trials and assertive outreach trials.
An important part of these trials is developing culturally appropriate and safe suicide prevention approaches. Evaluation of these trials will inform efforts across the State.
Place-based initiative - helping local communities to prevent suicide
The Victorian Government is partnering with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to support local communities develop and implement coordinated place-based approaches to suicide prevention.
Guided by a common agenda, operating model, communications, and evaluation frameworks, these trials are harnessing local skills, expertise, and resources to implement tailored, evidence-based initiatives in local communities. At each site, organisations, services, and community work together to develop a plan to reduce suicides and to deliver effective suicide prevention at a local level.
Engagement with Aboriginal communities and exploring specific issues for Aboriginal people is an important component of these trials.
This summary provides further information about the place-based initiative:
The trials are being implemented across twelve Victorian locations: Mornington Peninsula/Frankston, Dandenong, Latrobe Valley, Bass Coast, Brimbank/Melton, Macedon Ranges, Whittlesea, Maroondah, Mildura, Benalla, Ballarat and the Great South Coast.
To date the trial has established more than 300 local partnerships across the 12 trial sites building an improved system to prevent suicide.
Further details on suicide prevention activity being implemented in metropolitan and regional site are available here:
The Hospital Outreach Post-suicidal Engagement (HOPE) initiative – improving care following a suicide attempt
In collaboration with health services at 21 sites across Victoria, the Victorian Government is implementing enhanced support and assertive outreach for people leaving an emergency department or medical ward following treatment for an attempted suicide, serious planning or intent.
The HOPE program provides intensive, person-centred support which is tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of the individual. Those eligible for the service will be contacted within 24-hours of hospital discharge, and support will continue for up to three months.
People are supported to address factors that contribute to stress in their lives related to their unique circumstances and needs. This can include assistance finding housing and employment, or referral to a range of support services, such education and training, legal support, Centrelink, drug and alcohol or relationship and family services.
Assertive outreach workers also work with, and provide support to, the families, friends and carers of people who have attempted suicide.
The HOPE program commenced at six initial sites at Alfred Health, Eastern Health (Maroondah), Barwon Health (Geelong), Albury Wodonga Health (Wangaratta), Peninsula Health and St Vincent’s Hospital with funding from the 2016-17 State Budget.
The 2018-19 Victorian Budget provided funding to expand the HOPE program to a further six sites, including Latrobe Regional Hospital (Gippsland), Melbourne Health (Sunshine), Monash Health (Casey), Ballarat Health (including Horsham), Mercy Health (Werribee) and Bendigo Health (including Mildura).
In its Interim Report, the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System recommended that the HOPE service is expanded to all Victorian area mental health services.
This will see the service grow from 12 to 21 service locations with broader referral pathways into the service, extended hours of service, and outreach from regional HOPE teams to subregional health services.
The implementation of this recommendation is being led by Mental Health Reform Victoria (MHRV), in partnership with the Department of Health and area mental health services.
HOPE services will be established at Goulburn Valley Health (Shepparton), Northern Area Mental Health Service (Epping), Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, Eastern Health (Box Hill), Royal Melbourne Hospital, Monash Medical Centre (Clayton), Austin Health (Heidelberg), South West Healthcare (Warnambool) and North Western Area Mental Health Service (Broadmeadows).
The Royal Commission’s interim report also recommended the creation of a new HOPE service for children and young people, in partnership with four health providers (Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Children’s Hospital, Alfred Health and Orygen).Design of the new child and youth HOPE service will be informed by the experiences of children and young people, as well as carers and families. It is expected that this service will be up and running by the end of 2021.
Other suicide prevention initiatives
There are those programs that are solely dedicated to reducing suicide and suicidal behaviour.
Other programs supported by the government may not have a specific suicide prevention focus but, through creating conditions that enable good mental health, contribute to the broader suicide prevention effort.
We also work closely with groups within our community experiencing a higher prevalence of suicide or with particular risk factors to understand the complex factors driving these outcomes.
A number of initiatives support people who may be at higher risk of suicide including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Victorians; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians; and rural and dairy communities.
Reducing the risk factors – disadvantage, injustices and social factors that cause distress – reduces the likelihood that people will head into a crisis.
Healthy Equal Youth Project
For young LGBTIQ people the Victorian Government provides $1.4 million per year to the Health Equal Youth (HEY) Project, with the funding divided between 17 partner organisations. This includes the annual HEY Grants program which aims to raise awareness, promote acceptance of diversity, eliminate stigma and discrimination and improve mental health in young same-sex attracted and sex and gender-diverse (SSASGD) people. Through the HEY program, organisations are funded to undertake mental health promotion and community engagement activities with a focus on LGBTIQ+ young people and their families. The grants program is administered and coordinated by Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic).
Information on the HEY Grants Program can be accessed at YACVic’s website.
Suicide Postvention and prevention support for LGBTIQ Victorians
The 2019-20 Victorian Budget provided $500,000 for a suicide prevention and postvention program, deliver by Switchboard. The program will include specialist support for LGBTIQ+ people bereaved by suicide, as well as targeted suicide prevention services.
Information about the program can be accessed at Switchboard’s website.
Improving mental health treatment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians
It is critical for the social and emotional health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Victorians, that health services are accessible and culturally safe and responsive.
Funding of $11.7 million has been allocated across four demonstration projects to test new service models for Aboriginal Victorians with moderate to severe mental illness, trauma and other complex health and social needs. These clients often fall through the gap between primary and tertiary mental health services.
The four Aboriginal-led demonstration sites are: Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative (in partnership with Ballarat Health), Mallee District Aboriginal Services (in partnership with Mildura Base Hospital and Mallee Family Care), Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative (in partnership with Barwon Health) and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (in partnership with St Vincent Health, Austin Health, and North Western Mental Health).
Aligned with the strategic priorities of the Balit Murrup Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing framework 2017-2027, each site will develop a culturally-safe, responsive, flexible and integrated service model tailored to the mental health, and social and emotional wellbeing needs of their local Aboriginal communities.
This is a significant initiative which will be evaluated to inform future development of the service model.
Building an Aboriginal mental health workforce
It is vital that self-determination and Aboriginal ways of being, knowing and doing, are at the forefront of service provision for Aboriginal peoples.
The 2017-18 Victorian Government Budget committed $8.4 million (over three years) to support two new initiatives:
- A mental health traineeship program for Aboriginal people in mental health services ($3.5million)
- Aboriginal clinical and therapeutic positions in Aboriginal community-controlled health services ($4.9 million)
Together these initiatives support the priorities of Balit Murrup: Aboriginal Social Emotional Wellbeing Framework (2017-2027) and a strategic and systemic approach to increase the workforce available to deliver culturally responsive, trauma-informed services that can address the social and emotional wellbeing and mental health needs of Aboriginal people in Victoria.
Further information can be found on the Balit Murrup webpage.