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National Suicide Prevention Adviser Final Advice

In July 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the commitment of the Australian Government to working ‘towards zero suicides’ and the appointment of the First National Suicide Prevention Adviser.

Over 18 months, the Adviser and the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce engaged with different levels of government and portfolios, organisations working in suicide prevention, researchers, leaders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention and community members.

A deliberate decision was made to learn about mental health and the suicide prevention system through listening to the lived experience of people who interacted with it at a time when they most needed support.  The voice of lived experience shaped the Advice more than any other source of inquiry. The clarion call was for a more connected and compassionate approach which takes support to people – there they are when they experience distress.

To ensure the reforms meet people where they need early intervention, the guiding principles for system reform is ‘whole of system, whole of life.’ This calls for a focus on prevention and early intervention, together with more integrated and compassionate service options that strengthen and extend current support.

To achieve this, a shared responsibility for suicide prevention is required across all levels of government, all portfolios and all communities.  Each has an essential role for people who are vulnerable to suicide – reducing distress, building a sense of connection and strengthening hope.

In April 2021, National Suicide Prevention Adviser Christine Morgan launched the Final Report with a briefing webinar led by the voice of Australians with lived experience. More than 300 people registered to join the conversation and the slides and webinar are now available for download.

Compassion First

This first report captures the voices of over 3,000 people with lived experience of suicide, particularly those who have survived suicide attempts or lived with suicidal distress. It also provides insights from commissioned research focused on families, caregivers and those bereaved by suicide. The clarion call from people with lived experience is for more comprehensive and connected approaches that address vulnerabilities long before a crisis, and for more compassionate responses that do not treat them as a ‘medical problem’ but rather provide them with assistance through their distress, connecting them to the right supports.

Connected and Compassionate

This second report details eight practical and achievable recommendations and actions for driving change across Australia. Informed by lived experience, the report identifies how a more connected and compassionate approach to suicide prevention will assist people vulnerable to suicide by leveraging the full range of services, touchpoints, policy drivers and resources available to all governments. Its approach focuses on the whole picture of a person’s life, identifying and using appropriate life turning points to engage with people to prevent escalation into suicidal crisis, taking help to people – where they are, and in a way that relates to their needs.

Shifting the Focus

The third report demonstrates a model for operationalising a comprehensive whole of government approach to suicide prevention, including a decisionmaking tool to be used by government portfolios to identify targeted distress reduction initiatives. It highlights the critical role that multiple sectors and government portfolios have in suicide prevention, and provides practical guidance on the steps government agencies can take to embed this into targeted initiatives, service planning, design, implementation and evaluation.