Suicide prevention: signposts for a new approach

Helen Christensen and Katherine Petrie
Med J Aust 2013; 198 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/mja12.11793
Published online: 20 May 2013

Suicide prevention can be improved by implementing effective interventions, optimising public health strategies and prioritising innovation

Suicide has overtaken motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among young adults aged 15–44 years in Australia. In 2011, 410 Australians aged 25–34 years took their own lives, with a total of 2273 deaths from suicide reported across all age groups.1 In terms of funding allocations, the Australian Government’s investment in the National Suicide Prevention Program (NSPP) more than doubled from $8.6 million in the financial year 2005–06 to $23.8 million in the financial year 2010–11.2 However, it is uncertain whether specific activities funded under this and similar schemes have reduced suicide rates. One study reported that Australia’s efforts to improve youth suicide prevention through locally targeted suicide prevention activities under the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy were unsuccessful in the period 1995–2002.3 Recent studies highlighting the limitations of individual risk assessments have contributed to a sense of nihilism. In suicide prevention, there is an acute mismatch between evidence-based interventions and clinical and population-based practice. The evidence of effectiveness is very limited,4 while the need to act is compelling.

  • Helen Christensen1
  • Katherine Petrie2

  • Black Dog Institute, Sydney, NSW.


We would like to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Samuel Harvey to the drafting of the manuscript.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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