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New Director appointed at the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention

22 March 2017

According to the World Health Organisation suicides place a heavy burden on individuals, families, carers and the community. In Australia, preliminary data suggests there were 3027 deaths due to suicide in 2015. More than 8 Australian lives are lost to suicide, every day.

Executive Director Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services Professor David Crompton OAM was recently appointed Director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP). Based in Brisbane, the organisation supports programs of research for the prevention of suicidal behaviour.

Suicide and its prevention can be deeply personal; however, evidence shows that improvements can be made by considering suicide at a public health level.

AISRAP works to identify populations at risk of suicide and better target interventions to help people at risk of suicide or self-harm. The organisation’s work has contributed to and been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation.

Professor Crompton says by strengthening ties between Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services and other Hospital and Health Services (HHS), AISRAP can continue to build on their knowledge and apply it to the local communities in Queensland.

“I would like to ensure that the knowledge contained within AISRAP and within the community is integrated so that we can to support both our clinicians and our community better,” he said.

 “As part of AISRAP’s education and training, they have a program called the Life Promotion Clinic (LPC).

“LPC is focused on providing specialised treatment to people with a history of suicidal behaviour.

“We will be able to work more closely in the clinical area using the Clinic to help mental health professionals to develop better strategies, through their learning processes, to aid people who are at risk of suicide or self-harm.

“The clinic is a unique place of care and monitoring service for those at high risk of suicide or self-harm behaviour, where psychiatrists and psychologists cooperate in providing the highest possible standard of care.

“By collaborating with HHS we can achieve better training and education for staff and look more closely at interventions, along with monitoring the outcomes to see whether we are making a difference,” he said.

The role of Director of AISRAP also involves working to find funding and grants to invest in translational research.

“Translational research allows us to take what is the known knowledge around treating an illness (or aspects of illness) in a research setting and work with clinicians to implement strategies with the goal of reducing the rate of suicide and self-harm behaviour in the community,” he said.

Professor Crompton said an example of translational therapy might be developing a form of cognitive therapy or talking therapy that has been effective in a clinical trial.

“You take it to clinicians and train them in its delivery. You then use the treatment in clinical delivery across a broader health population and evaluate its success,” he said.

“The issue with clinical trials is that quite often clinicians have been highly specific in the people that you treat. So, for instance, you may only treat people who suffer from depression or anxiety.

“But, in the real world, people often have more complex problems.

“So, the treatment that worked well in the clinical trial may not be as effective when looking after patients in the community.

“In addition, people taking part in a clinical trial may be highly motivated and have a high desire to get well, so this can also impact on the outcomes of the trial.

“What this means for transitional research is that we need to evaluate and understand what is occurring in a real world setting and look at what needs to be done to ensure interventions are successful.

“By having HHS participate in research relevant to suicide self-harm behaviour in their regions and conducting research within a community setting we may achieve better treatment outcomes,” he said.

Professor Crompton said while immense progress has been made over the years in treating self-harm behaviour there is not one single intervention that makes a difference.

 “Preventing suicide and self-harm is about multiple factors.

“We want to take the data that AISRAP obtains and apply it to the local area.

“With AISRAP’s data clinicians could identify people at risk of suicide.

“Practically, we can make changes that alter the risks across the community.

“In Queensland, two major bridges were identified as suicide hot spots and fencing these bridges is a physical intervention that has reduced deaths.

“Another good example of a physical intervention is the introduction of blister packs for medications. These simply slow down a person’s ability to ingest medication and help save lives.

 “But most importantly, when the HHS and AISRAP work together we can identify improvements to the systems that are in place and enhance clinical care.

Professor Crompton said that one of the most important suicide reduction and self-harm interventions is to talk about the issue of suicide and stop it being hidden behind closed doors and reduce stigma.

“Reducing stigma encourages people to seek help and obtain the help they need earlier in the piece, allowing them a better chance of recovery,” he said.

The Metro South community can access local mental health services for information and assistance in times of mental health crisis 24 hours a day via a centralised phone number:

    Phone: 1300 MH CALL (1300 64 22 55)

    Fax: (07) 3078 2120

The service does not replace 000, which should continue to be used in an emergency. Existing consumers are encouraged to contact their case manager for support during business hours, except in times of crisis or emergency.

Last updated 19 August 2021
Last reviewed 13 October 2016

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