Showcasing: Suicide prevention through connection service
Central and Eastern Sydney
Neami National in partnership with St. Vincent’s Hospital (SVHA), Prince of Wales Hospital (South Eastern Sydney LHD) and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Sydney LHD). Funded by Central and Eastern Primary Health Network (CESPHN)
Living Well domain
SPconnect is a suicide prevention service that through a connection service provides access to one-on-one care coordination for people of all ages in the Central and Eastern areas of Sydney who have had a suicide attempt or crisis and have been discharged from an emergency department or hospital setting. These people are considered able to be supported in community and primary care settings.
The program aims to assist in facilitating participants’ connections to local services and general practitioners (GPs), while also promoting social connectedness and wellbeing. SPconnect works with individuals to develop stress management skills, coping strategies and encourages help seeking behaviour.
Suicide is not just a mental health issue but a whole of person, whole of community issue. Many people who experience suicidal thoughts and/or attempts don’t have a diagnosed mental health issue. Suicide can impact anyone and is an equally serious problem for men and women. Suicide or feeling suicidal doesn’t just affect the person but families and the community. The impact of suicide and feeling suicidal can have a significant impact on a person well past having the initial thought. It is estimated that for every suicide up to 30 people attempt to end their life1.. Most people who seek help when feeling suicidal or after a suicide attempt attend hospital emergency departments. This is important if the person is injured or at significant risk of harm however hospital is often a short-term solution for a longer-term problem that requires community support and follow up to address the underlying cause of mental distress.
SPconnect is delivered by a multidisciplinary team, comprised clinical staff, community care coordinators and peer workers. The program provides one-on-one support through an outreach service approach, meeting participants at their preferred place within the community.
SPconnect uses an evidence-based, trauma-informed and culturally sensitive practice, while offering development and wellbeing workshops through the Optimal Health Program (OHP). OHP is a holistic self-managed wellbeing program that promotes empowerment and helps people develop self-management skills while exploring strengths and developing strategies to manage overall health and wellbeing.
A hospital project officer position was developed to engage the three-partnering hospitals providing education to hospital staff on the SPconnect program including the referral process. The service is open to anyone who has had a presentation to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital, and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for a suicide attempt or experiencing suicidal crisis. The SPconnect manager allocates a community care coordinator who will engage with the participant within seven days of referral.
SPconnect received 699 referrals seeking follow up care with the aim of reducing the incidence of suicide and suicide attempts after discharge in the CESPHN region.
Evaluation of the program is conducted in collaboration with hospital staff using a range of outcome measures including:
• K10 (from hospital discharge or SPconnect intake)
• Health Wealth & Collaborative Partners (post OHP)
• Your Experience of Survey (YES) relating to Neami.
Outcome measures have shown that the majority of clients have had a positive experience of care. The program has assisted in developing self-management and resilience skills, increased social connectedness and reducing risk of suicide over time, with overall enhanced quality of life.
Feedback received through the YES survey responses have been overwhelmingly positive with 94% of people surveyed describing the service as very good or excellent. Some of the comments from clients are; quoted the following positive experiences of SPconnect:
“The SPconnect program has provided me with new insights and suggestions for my mental health recovery, which I have not had before. I was terrified I'd have to sit through wellness tips and positive affirmations with a health worker. What I've experienced has been the opposite. The advice I have received has been extremely well researched and realistic. Our conversations have been raw, open, and supportive. In the past I have felt as though I have been treated with a one size fits all approach. The conversations I have had with my care coordinator have allowed for my questions to be answered individually and tailored to the support that I need.”
“How friendly the service/staff were, I felt comfortable sharing my experiences.”
“The support workers were wonderful and caring and the whole program was so beneficial and helped me get back on my feet again.”
A wide range of funding streams and strategies are emerging for reducing the suicide rate across NSW and Australia. Primary Health Networks are in the process of working with local health districts to commission work in this area. The SPconnect collaborative model of service delivery which incorporates hospital partners to streamline referrals from hospital to community care has been very successful. Additional funding made available in 2020 for the Beyond Blue The Way Back Support Service (TWBSS) has seen CESPHN expand the program from 3 to 7 hospitals and build the hospital project officers into TWBSS design. The program also aims to demonstrate a reduction in hospital representations because of participation in the program. This data is currently being collated.