One in three who attempt suicide receive no follow up support

The Canberra Times, 3 September 2015.

One in three Australians arriving at hospital after attempting suicide is receiving no mental health follow-up care, with many having their behaviour dismissed by hospital staff as attention seeking, according to a national research report released on Thursday.

The study by NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention and the Black Dog Institute shows 60,000 Australians attempting suicide every year, with 2500 dying as a result. Of those that are receiving mental health follow-ups, more than half are receiving just one, 30-minute consultation.

“These results are alarming for a number of reasons,” chief investigator of the report Dr Fiona Shand said. “Firstly, we know that emergency departments are often the first point of contact for people experiencing mental distress and a negative experience will result in an unwillingness to seek further help.

“Secondly, a lack of appropriate mental health care meant people were often discharged too rapidly and without the knowledge of loved ones. In this situation, future suicide risk is increased.”

Dr Shand said those in rural and remote areas of the country were also at a higher risk of depression and suicide, particularly men who made up 90 per cent of deaths by suicides in remote areas.

CEO of the Young and Well Corporate Research Centre, associate professor Jane Burns, said young people in particular continued to fall through the gaps in the mental health support system, with 75 per cent of those with a mental health disorder not seeking help.

Professor Burns said there were great opportunities to use technology to help young Australians at risk of suicide, particularly those a long way from physical support services.

“The first port of call is often the internet, so there is a real opportunity,” Professor Burns said. “Different regions require different solutions, it’s not a one-size fits all model. We need to reorientate the system to place the individual at the centre of looking after their own mental well-being,” she said.

Dr Shand said she would like to see a system implemented that ensured all people leaving hospital after a suicide attempt received appropriate and ongoing care from their GP or a mental health professional.

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