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National Suicide Prevention Conference

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja15.0817C2
Published online: 17 August 2015

ALMOST 400 delegates gathered in Hobart late last month for the 2015 National Suicide Prevention Conference, organised by Suicide Prevention Australia.

Associate Professor Myf Maple (pictured), from the University of New England, said the conference was focused on the social context of suicide, rather than risk factors.

International speakers included Professor Heidi Hjelmeland, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Professor Rory O’Connor, professor of health psychology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland; and Dr DeQuincy Lezine, president and CEO of Prevention Communities in San Francisco, USA.

Professor O’Connor said Australia was leading the way across sectors, and in workplace interventions such as MATES in Construction.1

How we speak and write about suicide was also a hot topic at the conference, he said.

“The words we use when talking about suicide are vital”, he told the MJA.

“We’re not using the word ‘committing’ any more. Suicide isn’t a crime.

“We used to not talk about suicide at all, or, when we did, we used clunky words that created a stigma around it.

“Cancer used to be the ‘Big C’, but now we talk about it openly. Suicide is still the ‘Big S’.”

This year’s conference included people who had “lived the suicide experience”, Professor O’Connor said.

“Families who have been bereaved by suicide, people who have survived their suicide attempts — they’re all now included in the discussion. We’re all on an equal footing, all coming together to learn from each other.

“We’re all the experts. We need to value those experiences.”



1. MATES in Construction website: http://www.matesinconstruction.org.au/
  • Cate Swannell


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