A review tabled in the Legislative Assembly today (12 February) found all young people who had died by suicide in the ACT between 2017 and 2019 had spoken to peers and/or family about their suicidal thoughts before their death.
The report explored systemic factors surrounding youth suicidal episodes and attempts, and offered key insights and seven recommendations to better support services, schools, family, peers and create systemic change.
The review found current treatment planning was inconsistent and there were often delays in accessing community-based supports following a suicide attempt.
Review Committee Chair Margaret Carmody said, on average, each year since 2004, between one to two young people in the ACT had taken their own life.
But, sadly, in 2018 there were five, leading to the review.
“For most young people in the review, their presentation would not have been dissimilar to many of their peers,” Ms Carmody said.
“They were attending school, had an engaged parent and a strong peer network.
“Often it was only their peers and family that were aware of the distress they were in.”
- Involve young people, with lived experiences of suicide, in prevention service design and delivery.
- Evaluate current youth mental health and suicide prevention programs, to determine effectiveness including meeting demand, with a focus on finding service gaps for those “not acutely unwell enough” to access services.
- Implement information campaigns targeting young people at risk and include practical intervention skills for peers and family, with specific information on risk factors, warning signs and available services for those closest to young people in distress.
- Implement and evaluate the Connecting with People program – operational in the UK and South Australia. The committee believes the program provides clinicians with the tools to engage young people more effectively in risk assessment and safety planning, but recommends an evaluation of the program’s effectiveness soon after the initial roll-out.
- Implement a support plan process in clinical settings that actively engages young people following an attempt, with continuity of care, clear timeframes, and an identified key person to follow up on service engagement. The plan should be shared with all individuals and organisations identified as a support to the young person.
- Implement evidence-based, assertive outreach guidelines into ACT Government policy that includes face-to-face contact with young people who have attempted suicide.
- Train staff from relevant organisations on responsible information sharing.
Ms Carmody said the issue of youth suicide required a “whole of community response” to prevention, one that provided guidance and tools to intervene and access specialised support to those closest to young people in distress.
“The committee recognises that every death of a young person is a tragedy and puts forward the recommendations to improve practice and reduce preventable deaths, like suicide,” Ms Carmody said.
“The committee acknowledges the grief for the families and friends of young people who have suicided.”
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