What is LifeSpan?
LifeSpan is a new evidence-based model for integrated suicide prevention in Australia. Developed by the Black Dog Institute, LifeSpan involves the simultaneous implementation of nine key strategies that have been shown to reduce suicide.
LifeSpan aims to support people to live full and contributing lives by bringing together healthcare, community services, and those with lived experience within a region, to work collaboratively to implement the multiple strategies within their community.
Strong evidence points to the benefits of combining effective strategies into an integrated approach to suicide prevention. The three key components of LifeSpan include:
- nine evidence-based strategies, targeting population to individual-level risk
- simultaneous implementation of all nine strategies in selected regions
- governance at a local level (integration of non-government organisations (NGOs), primary health care networks, local health districts, education, police and community groups to coordinate action).
Why is LifeSpan needed?
Suicide is a significant global issue and understanding effective suicide prevention interventions has expanded considerably in the past few years.
Suicide rates in Australia have remained high over the past decade, despite a small decrease in rates between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, 2,866 Australians died by suicide.
Using the LifeSpan systems approach, estimates suggest it may be possible to prevent 21% of suicide deaths, and 30% of suicide attempts.
The LifeSpan model is evidence-based, and represents current knowledge about best practice in suicide prevention. The new component of the approach being trialied is the simultaneous implementation of nine key evidence-based strategies within a localised area. These strategies are outlined below and you can download the summary document below also.
How will LifeSpan be delivered?
In 2015, Black Dog Institute received a philanthropic grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to allow them to test the effectiveness of the LifeSpan model in reducing suicide attempts and deaths. Four sites within New South Wales have been selected to test the implementation of the model. Newcastle is the first site to pilot the integrated approach and we commenced in October 2016. We will be followed by trials in lllawarra Shoalhaven, Gosford/Wyong and the Murrumbidgee.
Implementation will be staged, with one site starting every four months to enable accurate measurements of effectiveness and impact. Each site will have a six month planning phase followed by a two year implementation period.
The evaluation of the LifeSpan trial in NSW consists of four components and will involve comparing rates of suicide deaths and attempts before and after the introduction of the model in each region and comparisons between regions.
There are four layers to the evaluation.
- Primary evaluation: to determine whether there is a reduction in suicide deaths and suicide attempts in communities receiving LifeSpan compared to those who do not receive LifeSpan.
- Secondary evaluation: to determine the intermediate or secondary outcomes associated with the individual strategies including their efficacy and attributed impacts.
- Process evaluation: to determine what aspects of implementation have impacted the outcomes. This will assist in comparing and understanding differences in outcomes between sites implementing LifeSpan.
- Economic evaluation: to determine the cost effectiveness and benefits of LifeSpan. This will allow comparison of changes in rates of suicidal behaviours in LifeSpan sites with the cost of delivering the intervention, minus the costs avoided as a result of averted suicide deaths and attempts.
Further information about the evaluation of LifeSpan will be available as the project progresses.
The LifeSpan Newcastle pilot is being led by an alliance of agencies working together locally to prevent suicide, with the contract held by the Hunter New England Local Health District. The partners involved in the Leadership group include:
- Hunter New England Local Health District
- Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network
- Hunter Primary Care
- Calvary Mater Newcastle
- Lifeline Hunter and Central Coast
- Newcastle City Council
- Department of Education
- members with lived experience.
The trial builds on collaborative work already occurring in Newcastle between these organisations.
A range of working groups drawing from health, community services, government, education, emergency services, NGOs and the community have been established to plan and deliver strategies locally. The implementation of the LifeSpan model in Newcastle is only possible through the support of the community and other important partners.
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What does being involved in LifeSpan mean for Newcastle?
LifeSpan Newcastle provides a unique opportunity for the community to come together, consider our existing local suicide prevention efforts, and to use the evidence base to build on and improve this work.
A suicide prevention implementation plan is being developed locally for Newcastle. As a part of the trial, there will be specific opportunities:
- to participate in education and training relevant to individual community members, health professionals (GPs, Emergency Department staff, allied health providers, psychiatrists), community service providers (e.g. police, drug & alcohol workers) and community groups to introduce different interventions that can build the capacity of the service system (e.g. e-mental health programs)
- to trial a universal screening tool in primary care practices to support secondary schools to deliver a mental health skills building program for young people to work with local media to ensure that the way suicide is reported is safe, sensitive and accurate
- to support a community engagement campaign about what LifeSpan is and its relevance day-to-day
- for people with lived experience to contribute to how LifeSpan is implemented in Newcastle.
What do we want to see?
LifeSpan Newcastle aims to:
- bring together people who are interested in suicide prevention in Newcastle, and in using the evidence to inform what we do
- build community capacity to support people who are suicidal, by providing access to education activities and establishing support structures to help people put what is learnt into practice
- increase the availability of, and access to, evidence-based care
- lead to more people being asked about their mental health and wellbeing as part of routine contact with health service providers, and provided with information about resources and ways to access support
- increase safe and positive public stories of recovery from suicidal crises
- establish clearer referral pathways and more cohesive systems of care
- value and work collaboratively with people with lived experience, as well as clinicians, service providers, and community members across Newcastle.
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