Understanding the prevention of mental ill-health and suicide

Understanding mental health, mental ill-health and suicide prevention

To reduce suicide rates in Australia and improve mental health and wellbeing, there needs to be a broader and clearer understanding of the surrounding issues, along with further refinement of existing policies and strategies.

Even the basic terminology remains confusing for many people today. ‘Mental health’ is sometimes misunderstood and interpreted as referring to mental ill-health. However, mental health is a desirable quality in its own right and is more than the absence of illness.

‘Mental health’ and ‘mental ill-health’are influenced by one another but aren’t polar opposites; if someone has a mental health concern, it doesn’t mean a complete absence of mental health.

In the case of suicide prevention, collaborative action is required from all levels of government and health care, right through to workplaces, educational settings, community groups, the media, families and individuals. Cost-effective, evidence-based programs that focus on early invention should be prioritised as part of an overarching approach.

While past investment in suicide prevention strategies has certainly helped, there are still evidence gaps in terms of the effectiveness of individual interventions and the integration of research with treatment delivery.

International reviews generally support multi-faceted and multi-modal approaches to suicide prevention, which may include:

  • Reducing access to means of suicide
  • Implementing guidelines on media reporting of suicide
  • Training community ‘gatekeepers’ to identify and support people at risk of suicide
  • Enhancing early access to treatment and referral pathways
  • Delivery of evidence-based therapies for those at risk of suicide or experiencing mental ill-health
  • Postvention initiatives to support people bereaved or impacted by suicide
  • Combinations of primary and secondary prevention and early intervention approaches.
Back to Prevention and promotion approaches