Success Stories from Youth Suicide Prevention in Australia: The Youth Work Contribution

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:10 AM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Trudi COOPER , School of Psychology and Social Science, Edith Cowan University, Australia
Australia's suicide prevention initiative (NSPP) was an holistic approach which included youth work and also other services, and was pivotal to some changes in youth work delivery, to cross-government policy development and to changes social attitudes.

During the period of implementation of the initiative there has been an increase in employment of youth workers in schools and the extension of school based youth work programs, changes in the delivery of adolescent mental health services and the development of on-line virtual youth services that provide youth-friendly, positive mental health support, including peer support. As a result of the training element in the package, schools developed more stringent anti-bullying policies, and took a stand against homophobia in school, because of the identified research link between homophobia and suicide prevention. This also flowed on to youth work funding for youth support groups. 

The NSPP coincided with gun control (although it did not directly inform the policy, which was a response to a specific mass shooting). Since tighter gun controls were introduced in the late 1990s, there has been a reductions in suicides (including youth suicides using firearms, and no increase in the use of other lethal means). The main lethal means of suicide for young people in Australia is hanging, followed by poisoning.  There is still some way to go, especially in rural and remote communities, where social attitudes are more entrenched and particularly Indigenous young people are more marginalised. The programs need further development and maintenance to address these specific inequalities.