National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy

Action area 5: Building the evidence base and disseminating information

Page last updated: 2013

It is important that activities to prevent suicide are founded on evidence and that services are professionally and ethically sound and do not add to the risk and vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. Evidence is needed to demonstrate that services are effective in preventing suicide, in reducing risk factors for suicide and minimising its impact on families and communities. Developing a body of research on the effectiveness of preventive interventions developed or adapted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities is a high priority. In other areas, the evidence base is limited by the lack of data on self-harm in communities and on outcomes or prevention at the community or regional level. The limitations on the collection and publication of population level suicide data is due to the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification and the small numbers involved making it difficult to detect statistically significant trends and differences by age, sex and region. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is working with the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each jurisdiction to improve the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality data and this work is ongoing.

Further evidence is needed on the causes of suicide and self-harm for specific subgroups and in specific settings. Evidence on effective practice, toolkits and resources needs to be made available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations, practitioners and government providers to inform the planning and implementation of activities. Opportunities exist for academic research to explore suicide and related issues, its determinants and the effectiveness of programs for prevention and postvention, particularly at the community level.

The Strategy will be an important channel to disseminate information and resources to all groups involved in suicide prevention.

Outcome 5.1 Governments, agencies and services continue to work together to improve completeness and accuracy of data collection, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification and access to appropriate methods, measures and standards for reporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide and self-harm.

  • Issue: Gaps in availability and accuracy of data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide and self-harm remain across Australian jurisdictions

Outcome 5.2 Population-level data and evidence on the distribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide, self-harm, and risk and protective factors in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are available.

  • Issue: There is a need for greater research effort to identify determinants of suicide and self-harm in specific subgroups and populations.

Outcome 5.3 There is locally accessible capacity to monitor risk behaviours and indicators of community functioning for individual communities and regions in order to reduce suicidal behaviour and prevent suicide.

  • Issue: National population data on risk factors and indicators of community functioning and wellbeing cannot be provided at regional and community levels. An investigation of community characteristics, levels of service use and links to self-harm needs to be undertaken and the capacity of practice systems in health care and other services to capture and report on self-harm needs to be improved. Research into the contribution of community level factors, including cultural change and continuity, community governance and social capital, should be conducted for Australian conditions.

Outcome 5.4 There is an improved evidence base on the effectiveness of suicide prevention activity, including effective services and interventions, community initiatives, mental health awareness promotion and training and capacity development.

  • Issue: There is very little research on the effectiveness of suicide prevention based on intervention studies developed with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Research on different interventions and at different intervention points should aim to provide evidence on prevention strategies for specific subgroups such as parents and children, youth and adults.

Outcome 5.5 There is research led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers so that an evidence base built on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge is developed. This could include organisations like the Ninti One network of Indigenous Community Researchers who have knowledge of the contemporary social, cultural and environmental contexts of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

  • Issue: Leveraging opportunities to build the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with graduate and postgraduate qualifications to levels comparable with other nations should be a priority across sectors. There is a need to build pathways to suicide prevention research for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across sectors; areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge should also be developed to contribute to evidence across sectors.

Outcome 5.6 Partnerships are established between researchers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and community organisations to evaluate evidence-based practices and provide support for program implementation and quality improvement.

  • Issue: Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations and Aboriginal medical services have signalled the need for evaluation research to support policy and practice development and to evaluate outcomes of programs and services. Suicide prevention practices can be developed and incorporated within existing continuous quality improvement systems.

Outcome 5.7 Accessible information on evidence-based approaches, effective interventions, good practice and professionally safe and culturally responsive strategies for use by communities, organisations and services is disseminated and widely available.

  • Issue: There is a need for access to information on evidence-based strategies and appropriate, culturally adapted resources and interventions to support planning of responses by communities and organisations. A need to acknowledge successful approaches has been identified. The dissemination and information strategy should include a register of proven and promising interventions, as well as culturally adapted and validated resources and instruments. Proactive, targeted strategies to disseminate information to specific practitioner groups, organisations and to communities are needed. This can include collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional associations and information networks.
    OutcomesStrategies
    Outcome 5.1 Governments, agencies and services work together to improve completeness and accuracy of data collection, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification and access to appropriate methods, measures and standards for reporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide and self-harmi. Governments continue to identify opportunities working with the National Advisory Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information and Data to improve data9 on deaths and intentional self-harm in each jurisdiction, including data to support coordination and evaluation of suicide prevention at a regional level
    ii. Work with national data collection agencies and the the National Advisory Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information and Data to improve surveillance data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide and self-harm where possible
    iii. Continue to Improve standards of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification within administrative data collection activities across agencies and services
    Outcome 5.2 Population-level data and evidence on the distribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide, self-harm, and risk and protective factors in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are availablei. Develop analyses of suicide and self-harm and key indicators of risk in communities and regions through research activities
    ii. Explore possibilities of data linkages to compile population-level data on relevant risk factors, characteristics of communities and service usage patterns
    iii. Examine ways to implement research studies that investigate the determinants of suicide and self-harm in specific subgroups and communities
    iv. Conduct research into the contribution of community characteristics, culture and governance to prevention
    Outcome 5.3 There is locally accessible capacity to monitor risk behaviours and indicators of community functioning for individual communities and regions in order to reduce suicidal behaviour and prevent suicidei. Standardise assessment and recording of suicide risk in health and community services
    ii. Develop methods for reporting indicators of self-harm at a community level to enable planned responses
    iii. Develop appropriate strategies for monitoring those at risk, and for referral and follow-up arrangements with appropriate specialist and support services
    Outcome 5.4 There is an improved evidence base on the effectiveness of suicide prevention activity, including effective services and interventions, community initiatives, mental health awareness promotion and training and capacity development i. Identify priorities for intervention studies for the development of universal and targeted early intervention services
    ii. Evaluate whole-of-community initiatives to identify the best methods of response to suicide clusters
    iii. Evaluate specific adaptations of gatekeeper training and training for natural helpers
    iv. Conduct trials to evaluate the effectiveness of multi-component, whole-of-community suicide prevention strategies
    Outcome 5.5 There is research led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers. An evidence base built on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge is developed. i. Identify strategies to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander completions in relevant disciplines at graduate and postgraduate levels of training
    ii. Improve the participation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as researchers and consultants in intervention trials that develop services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
    iii. Conduct studies to show how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge can contribute to social and emotional wellbeing
    Outcome 5.6 Partnerships are established between researchers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and community organisations to evaluate evidence-based practices and provide support for program implementation and quality improvementi. Establish research and implementation partnerships between the community and research sectors to implement and evaluate suicide prevention initiatives
    ii. Develop research-informed strategies to support quality implementation of preventive activity
    iii. Develop practice-based evidence to support continuous quality improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing services
    iv. Investigate the effectiveness of culturally adapted interventions and instruments specifically for use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing workers.
    Outcome 5.7 Accessible information on evidence-based approaches, effective interventions, good practice and professionally safe and culturally responsive strategies for use by communities, organisations and services is disseminated and widely availablei. Develop an information plan that builds access to information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention
    ii. Develop specific resources for targeted audiences, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities, practitioners and organisations
    iii. Explore methods for online access to information about effective practices, resources and instruments, supports for planning and service delivery
    iv. Strengthen communities of practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention through targeted provision of information and resources through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional bodies and information networks

    9 The National Advisory Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information and Data is an Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC) sub-committee which provides broad strategic advice to AHMAC on ways of improving the quality and availability of data and information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and health service delivery. The Advisory Group includes representatives from relevant statistical agencies, jurisdictions, experts and Indigenous membership.