The Mental Health Commission of NSW is marking five years of operation in July 2017. Here, we look back at some of the Commission's achievements.
The Goal: Suicide and attempted suicide are the most devastating consequences of mental distress. In NSW in 2015, 815 people took their own lives. Many more consider, plan or attempt suicide. There is a wealth of evidence that shows suicide and the suffering it represents can be prevented through strategies aimed at individuals and entire communities. One of the Commission’s priorities has been to ensure this evidence is put into action.
What the Commission has done:
- We commissioned the Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP) to come up with a detailed plan for how multiple, proven suicide prevention strategies could be rolled out in NSW in a co-ordinated and effective way. The resulting proposed Suicide Prevention Framework for NSW was the first study in Australia to show how this ‘systems approach’ to suicide prevention could be implemented, how much it would cost and the potential benefits. Using this research, Black Dog Institute secured $14.7m in funding to run a world-first suicide prevention trial in NSW, called LifeSpan. LifeSpan will see nine different evidence-based suicide prevention strategies implemented in four towns in NSW over six years.
- There are a lot of organisations and individuals working on suicide prevention in NSW. The Commission established the Suicide Prevention Advisory Group to get leaders in this area – including people who’ve been personally affected by suicide - all together in one room every six months to share information and increase coordination.
- To support individuals, families and professionals to talk about suicide in a safe and productive way, the Commission partnered with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health and produced an online resource called Conversations Matter. Since its beginnings in 2013, the resource has grown to include materials tailored for professionals working with Aboriginal communities and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
- To support towns to turn conversations and concern about suicide into effective local action, the Commission partnered with the Hunter Research Institute and produced an online resource called Communities Matter. The resource is a plain language guide to combating suicide and stigma via community action.
- We provided funding to the Black Dog Institute to enhance and extend iBobbly, a smartphone app designed to reduce suicidal thinking among Aboriginal people aged 16-35. Our funding meant Black Dog was able to adapt the app for national use, so Aboriginal communities beyond the Kimberley region could use it; made it more user friendly, such as via a clearer navigational structure and more videos; and made it accessible on iDevices, in addition to its original Android design.
How it’s improving mental health and wellbeing and the mental health system:
The Commission’s efforts over the past five years have supported suicide prevention activity in NSW to be more effectively coordinated, monitored and planned. The Lifespan trial has the potential to reduce suicide deaths by 20% and attempts by 30% in the four NSW sites in which it is being implemented. The Suicide Prevention Advisory Group ensures more co-ordination and less duplication among those leading suicide prevention work in NSW. And individuals, families and frontline workers have materials to help them talk and act to prevent suicide, including culturally appropriate tools. This is especially vital, as suicide prevention is not in the hands of mental health workers alone: it is everyone’s responsibility.