Ground-breaking trial aiming for significant reduction in self-harm

James Lamerton, chief executive officer of the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.
James Lamerton, chief executive officer of the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.

A ground-breaking suicide prevention scheme being trialled in the Wagga area aims to substantially reduce the number self-harm attempts.

Called LifeSpan, it is Australia’s largest-ever suicide prevention trial and it has been introduced four regional areas. The goal is to reduce suicide deaths by 21 per cent and self-harm attempts by 30 per cent.

The program, developed by the Black Dog Institute and Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention, aims to deliver an “evidence-based systems approach” to suicide prevention.

The goal is “remove the guesswork” and find strategies that actually work.

The Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network is the last of the four areas to come on board in a roll-out that began last year. Preparation has begun and the study should be running in Murrumbidgee by February.

Fiona Shand from the Black Dog Institute said this was a departure from previous programs.

“Much of the effort in the past has been well-intentioned, but not evidence-based,” Dr Shand said.

“It is difficult to keep up with evidence as it’s always emerging, and there might be an effect, but we couldn’t be sure.”

LifeSpan works by pulling together nine different strands, ranging from immediate treatment through to programs for schools.

“There is good care there for those who try to self-harm and also for people with a mental illness,” Dr Shand said.

“There are school-based programs and even a media reporting strategy. It’s an integrated approach.”

Data from a range of health and other professionals will be gathered to help track whether the strategy is working.

“The strength of the LifeSpan model is that it can be individually tailored to meet the needs in any local community,” James Lamerton, chief executive officer of Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network said.

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