Barriers and challenges can negatively impact on effectiveness. This section identifies the key barriers and challenges that emerged from the project survey, thematic analysis of project data and documentation (including progress reports), and information submitted as part of the MDS.
9.2.4 Weak relationships
9.2.5 Target group
9.2.6 Specific challenges for projects focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations
9.2.7 Data collection
9.2.8 Technology, literacy and language
9.2.9 Rurality and distance
9.2.10 Other factors
9.2.1 FundingFunding limitations were recognised as a barrier for a number of projects, and the shortage of resources this produced was cited as a reason for difficulties delivering the number, range, intensity or geographic coverage of services needed. Several projects reported a desire to expand their services to other areas or other settings (such as schools or workplaces) but could not do so because of funding limitations.
The short-term nature of funding was also reported to limit the potential for ongoing program development, as well as leading to recruitment difficulties. In some cases, reduction in funding amounts between funding periods placed a strain on the ability to deliver services as planned. In addition, some projects were reluctant or not able to promote their services because they were concerned that a lack of future funding would mean that services could not be delivered.
In some projects, there were concerns related to the small size of the project (in terms of amount of funding and/or number of staff) and the ability to cover absences and continue service delivery and service development. In some cases the small size of the project limited the ability to cover leave, ensure information technology was up to date and operational or ensure that optimal care of workers (related to supervision, etc) could be undertaken.
Key findingsSome projects reported that funding limitations and uncertainties:
- Made it difficult to deliver the number range, intensity or geographical coverage of services needed
- Restricted expansion and/or development of project activities
- Restricted their ability to ensure optimal employee supervision and staff recruitment Top of page
9.2.2 StaffingRecruitment and retention of adequately trained and skilled staff was a common issue for projects. This is in addition to the expected typical staffing challenges, such as resignations and illness. Specific issues included:
- The specialist skills required for some suicide-prevention roles. Attracting and retaining 'work-ready' staff was a problem, especially for projects requiring staff from particular cultural backgrounds (eg, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) or who understood the particular needs of the target group (eg, working with older men).
- Difficulties recruiting staff to rural and remote locations.
- Remuneration levels required to attract and retain staff were prohibitive to program sustainability in some areas.
- Long gaps in service delivery whilst recruitment was being undertaken led to loss of confidence in the services and a continual need to rebuild trust with new staff members.
- The short-term nature of NSPP funding led to difficulties recruiting staff to short-term roles because of a perceived lack of job security.
- The often stressful and demanding nature of suicide prevention work (particularly in some community settings) was suggested as a reason for higher levels of staff turnover and position vacancies.
Key findingsStaff recruitment and retention difficulties, which were seen to be largely a function of the short-term NSPP funding, were commonly cited as a barrier to effective program implementation. Top of page
9.2.3 AdministrationBarriers and challenges in the administration of projects took several forms. Issues associated with organisational culture, and the skill levels of staff, managers and decision-makers, were cited as difficulties by some projects. The burden of continually applying for funding to deliver services and the pressure of delivering on short-term financial contracts were noted challenges that in some cases stifled change, flexibility and capacity.
9.2.4 Weak relationshipsWhile strong partnerships and relationships were seen as key to project success, challenges to developing partnerships and relationships were also a barrier to success. Difficulties included:
- Relationship building was inevitably time-consuming, and the time required was sometimes underestimated, especially in the project start-up phase.
- Engaging external stakeholders in the project (eg, local schools, health services or other service providers) was challenging due to competing demands on their time, and in some cases, differing perspectives on the importance of suicide prevention.
- Lack of clarity around roles and referrals between service providers (eg, linking hospital patients with GPs) and in some cases, perceived 'territorial behaviour' among partnering organisations. For example, some mental health clinicians were reluctant to accept approaches to suicide prevention that used peer support models if they did not see these approaches as a legitimate model of care.
- Administrative and bureaucratic issues and ‘unsupportive policies’ within organisations were also identified as problems for some projects.
Key findingsThe key relationship barriers identified were:
- Time required for relationship building
- Difficulties engaging external stakeholders
- Lack of clarity around roles and referrals between service providers Top of page
9.2.5 Target groupEngaging target groups in suicide prevention activities was challenging for a number of projects. Examples of difficulties included:
- People not turning up to planned workshops or events, in some cases necessitating cancellation of events due to low participant numbers.
- Concerns about the confidentiality of divulged problems or difficult circumstances.
- For some target groups, a reluctance to discuss emotions, or to talk about the issues of suicide because of the fear of stigmatisation.
- Similarly, some target groups were reluctant to engage with health professionals. This was noted particularly for projects targeting older men. Social stigma related to mental illness and suicide was reported as a barrier to help-seeking and engagement by some projects. Projects employed a number of strategies to reach their target groups in a way that was non-threatening.
- For participants of workforce development projects, suicide prevention training necessitated time away from their day-to-day jobs. Time release was often resisted by management.
- Projects that operated in school settings often reported conflicting priorities and demands on the curriculum.
Key findingsProjects experienced difficulties in engaging with target groups due to:
- Poor attendance at events
- Social stigma relating to suicide which resulted in a reluctance to talk about suicide or seek help
- Competing priorities within settings such as schools and workplaces Top of page
9.2.6 Specific challenges for projects focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populationsThe complex social and cultural issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities created challenges for projects addressing this target group. Key issues included:
- Time required to build trust in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including building positive relationships with elders.
- Importance of ensuring that resources developed or training provided is culturally appropriate and pitched at an accessible literacy level.
- Permission was required to access some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and this process was time-consuming.
- Recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff was difficult.
- One project reported that events were often cancelled because of funerals, or other sorry business (due to suicide or other reasons), underscoring the magnitude of the health and social problems faced by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
- Difficulties collecting data due to reluctance or inability to fill out forms or reluctance to be formally followed up.