Commonwealth response to 'The hidden toll: suicide in Australia'

6. Suicide research

Page last updated: 2010

The Senate Committee reviewed the adequacy of the current program of research into suicide and suicide prevention, and the manner in which findings are disseminated to practitioners and incorporated into government policy. The Australian Government's three pronged approach in responding to these concerns highlights the significant investments provided under the National Health and Medical Research Council, the expanded funding for research activity under the National Suicide Prevention Program and the work undertaken through the National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention to provide advice and evidence of best practice of suicide prevention in Australia and overseas.

Recommendation 35

7.35 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government provide funding in the National Suicide Prevention Program for research projects into suicide prevention, including detailed evaluations of suicide prevention intervention.

Recommendation 36

7.39 The Committee recommends the Commonwealth government, as part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, create a suicide prevention resource centre to collect and disseminate research and best practice regarding suicide prevention.

Response

The Australian Government supports these recommendations, noting there are various initiatives in place that address them.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funds the full spectrum of health and medical research in Australia. All NHMRC funding is openly competitive and like all other disciplines, mental health research funding depends on high quality peer review of applications , including by other mental health researchers.

In 2010, NHMRC is providing 425 mental health research grants totalling $72.5 million, which equates to approximately 10% of the annual NHMRC research budget. Over the last ten years, NHMRC has funded 1,079 mental health grants totaling of $403 million, a more than seven-fold increase in expenditure.

In 2008, the Government established the National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention (the Centre) through the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (Griffith University), to provide advice on and evidence of national and international best practice of suicide prevention. The Centre supports governments, non-government organisations, academics and community groups in their work on suicide prevention. It offers direct support to stakeholders to undertake new and emerging suicide prevention activities, particularly where this pertains to selective interventions to individuals who have attempted suicide or self-harm. A publicly available half-yearly critical literature review outlines recent advances and promising developments in suicide prevention research. Research is disseminated via the Griffith University website (www.griffith.edu.au/health/australian-institute-suicide-research-prevention).
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The Australian Government is strengthening research and case studies in the Australian context with a comprehensive Evaluation Framework for the National Suicide Prevention Program19 for the years 2006–11. This framework was introduced as a deliverable to all NSPP funded projects in 2007 and includes formal data collection requirements for all NSPP funded projects and external evaluations for all major projects. Evaluations and reviews of significant national projects funded under the NSPP are currently underway.

Additionally, the Government will continue to work with states and territories to implement Action 29 of the Fourth National Mental Health Plan, to "Develop a national mental health research strategy to drive collaboration and inform the research agenda". This research strategy includes mechanisms for increased research into suicide and suicide prevention.

The LIFE Communications project and Living is for everyone website (www.livingisforeveryone.com.au) provides a broad sector communication strategy and resources, facilitates sharing of expertise, knowledge and information between stakeholders, and conducts workshops on how to evaluate suicide prevention projects. Its LIFE Professional Development Network currently has 264 participants.

SANE Australia has also been supported to develop, and provide access to, a range of resources on suicide prevention, including the SANE Guide to Staying Alive20.

The Commonwealth will continue develop better linkages between these above initiatives with a view to making them more visible to the sector and more user friendly.

Footnotes

19 Evaluation Framework for the National Suicide Prevention Program, Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra
20 SANE Guide to Staying Alive, SANE Australia