Forty per cent of patients admitted to hospital after a suicide attempt do not receive any follow-up mental health treatment and only 10 per cent receive specialist in-patient psychiatric care, new research shows.
Every year, more than 60,000 Australians attempt to take their life and the majority of these people will be taken to a hospital setting.
Research by the Black Dog Institute shows, of the patients who do receive follow-up mental health care following a suicide attempt, more than half receive one 30-minute session.
“The period following discharge from hospital after a suicide attempt represents a very high risk for further suicide attempts,” Professor Helen Christensen, director of the Black Dog Institute, said.
Their research showed the attitude of hospital staff had a powerful impact on patients, with those who received negative treatment significantly less likely to seek help after they were discharged.
“Current privacy laws mean family and carers are often not included in discharge arrangements or follow-up services and research shows that support from family and friends is integral to recovery from mental illness,” Professor Christensen said.
Suicide can be prevented, hot spots identified: experts
Experts said there was no significant change to suicide rates in the past decade, despite increased investment into prevention programs.
But overseas research revealed suicide was preventable and rates could be reduced with evidence-based strategies and appropriate government investment.
Black Dog Institute researchers developed a new approach to suicide prevention involving nine key strategies in a community setting.
Key prevention measures included:
- Continuing care once people leave emergency departments after a suicide attempt
- High-quality treatment such as cognitive behaviour therapy training in GPs in detecting and dealing with suicide risk
- Suicide preventing training every three years for police, ambulance and other first responders.
Professor Christensen said while most of these measures were already in use, the key to success was the simultaneous implementation and the tailoring of the program to the risk level and demographics of specific communities.
“Evidence shows we could reduce the suicide rate by around 20 per cent in the first few years of this approach being implemented,” she said.
She also said targeting suicide hotspots was crucial.
New evidence and technology developed by Black Dog Institute in partnership with Australian National University meant researchers could identify the best areas for suicide interventions.
“Currently identified hotspots in New South Wales include Albury, Tweed Heads, eastern Sydney, Newcastle and Shellharbour areas,” Professor Christensen said.
Mental health experts, patient groups and governments will meet in Canberra next week for the first national suicide prevention summit.
“This is the first time all relevant Australian stakeholders have been brought together to discuss these significant national health issues,” Professor Christensen said.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive real change.”
This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 9 August 2015.