For the growing list of Plenary Speakers and Special Lecturer bios be sure to keep an eye on this link: Speakers
KEYNOTE SPEAKER:Professor Sir Mason Durie – ‘The Turamarama Declaration: Indigenous Suicide Prevention’
Abstract: At the Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference in Rotorua 2016, a Declaration was approved by the participants. The presentation will focus on the articles contained in the Turamarama Declaration for Indigenous Suicide Prevention. It will scope indigenous suicide trends with a particular focus on Māori suicides, the Waka Hourua Strategies for prevention and the key findings from the community projects undertaken in both Māori and Pasifika communities.
Professor Jane Pirkis – ‘Using a novel, media-based intervention to prevent suicide in men’
Abstract: Around the world, men dominate suicide statistics. One of the reasons for this may relate to the fact that men are less likely than women to seek help from professional sources if they are facing tough emotional times, and less likely to reach out to their friends and family for support. Men’s relative reticence to turn to others for assistance has been discussed in the context of societal expectations about what it means to be a man. There are implicit and explicit pressures on men to solve problems for themselves and remain self-assured. Society often rewards men for exhibiting leadership, strength and stoicism, and discourages them from displaying overt signs of emotion. From a young age, boys are told to ‘man up’, ‘toughen up’ and ‘grow a pair’. These normative pressures reinforce in men’s minds that talking through their problems with others is not a valid way of dealing with life. We received funding from the Movember Foundation to develop and test an intervention designed to challenge male stereotypes and legitimise help-seeking. We worked with Heiress Films to create a 3-part documentary that explored the complex relationships between masculinity, help-seeking, mental health and suicidality. We called it Man Up, deliberately challenging the conventional use of the term. This presentation will discuss the development and evaluation of Man Up, focusing particularly on its reach and its effectiveness in achieving its aims.
Professor Sunny Collings – ‘Establishing a Suicide Mortality Review Committee: Experiences from New Zealand’
Abstract: During 2013-15, our research group worked with the New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission to investigate potential approaches to the monitoring of suicides, with a view to setting up a Suicide Mortality Review Committee (SuMRC). The purpose of such a committee would be to improve the identification of those at risk and discover new points for intervention. The recommendation was accepted and a permanent statutory committee recently established. In this talk I will describe the background work we did for the Commission, discuss how the Mortality Review Committee approach can contribute to the monitoring and reduction of suicide deaths, and compare and contrast it to other approaches to prevention-directed surveillance. The potential contribution of the SuMRC will be examined in the context of potential outcomes of New Zealand’s current Mental Health Inquiry.
Professor Murad Khan – ‘Religiosity, culture and suicidal behaviour’
Abstract: Spirituality and religiosity have a significant role in suicide prevention. It is postulated that religiosity is strongly influenced by culture, and religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices are interwoven and influence each other. For example, the Islamic religion strongly condemns suicide as an unforgivable sin and Muslims have much lower rates of suicide than people of other religions. However, there are variations in suicide rates even amongst Islamic countries, with evidence of relatively high rates in Islamic countries of Central Asia Republics such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and low rates in Islamic countries of Middle East & North Africa such as Syria and Morocco. Various theories are put forward for this variation but one possible explanation for this variation is the influence of culture on religiosity.
When planning suicide prevention programs measures of religion/spirituality should reflect greater sensitivity of ethno-cultural factors, as the magnitude and direction of the effect of religiosity on health may vary across ethnic groups, which differ with regard to the cultural centrality of religion. There is need to examine ways in which culture influences religion’s expression of the spiritual and vice versa.
Professor Professor Ella Arensman – ‘Self-harm and suicide in young people: Associated risk factors and evidence based interventions’
Abstract: In recent years, international research has shown an increase of self-harm and suicide in young people. In addition, many self-harm acts among children and adolescents remain ‘hidden’ from health services. Self-harm in children and adolescents commonly involves self-cutting and intentional drug overdose, and associations have been found with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, physical and sexual abuse and bullying including cyberbullying. Suicide clustering is four times more common among young people (15-24 years) than other age groups. There are indications of increasing clustering and contagion effects in suicidal behaviour among young people associated with the rise in social media. In addition, in small communities social learning processes also contribute to clustering of suicide and self-harm. There is growing evidence for positive mental health promotion programmes in reducing risk factors for self-harm and strengthening protective factors. A number of specific interventions, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy have demonstrated positive effects in reducing risk of repeated self-harm among young people. However, the number of randomised controlled trials in this area is limited.
Professor Paul Yip – ‘Suicide Prevention with YouTubers’
Abstract: We are experiencing the era of social media. The ubiquity of social media among the youth has created a platform for them to disclose their emotional distress and suicidal ideation. A telephone survey in Hong Kong done by our Centre revealed that only 7 % of the at-risk youth had sought formal help from social services regarding their distress, whilst over 78% of them had disclosed their distress online. We see the potential of social media as a suicide prevention medium to identify and connect the vulnerable hidden youth. We have collaborated with some popular Hong Kong YouTubers to launching a long-term collaborative suicide prevention programme. Our aim is to co-create a series of online and offline activities, aiming to leverage the power of social media and the connectedness of YouTubers and the youth population to raise the awareness of suicide prevention and to facilitate help-seeking behavior of the teenagers in the community. The initial response is encouraging and the YouTubers could be effective mental health ambassador, the YouTubers have managed to contact those who have been found difficult to connect before. The pattern of connectivity and its content will be discussed, and further opportunities will be explored.
Professor Pat Dudgeon – ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide Prevention’
Abstract: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide occurs at double the rate of other Australians. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of 15 to 34 years of age, accounting for 1 in 3 deaths. The mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has become a critical issue and available data indicates an entrenched, worsening, mental health crisis. At the core of any solutions are concepts of community ownership and valuing culture. New approaches where mental health profession needs to and have begun to engage with Indigenous people in ways that support self-determination and assist recovery and cultural maintenance are essential. The national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) at UWA were undertaken in response to appalling rates of suicide. ATSISPEP achieved the development of an evidence base for what works in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention and the development of a culturally appropriate evaluation framework. It identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community suicide prevention needs and that system-level change was required. As a result, the Centre For Best Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP, UWA) was established to reduce the causes, prevalence and impact of suicide on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, their families and communities. It aims to assess relevant existing international and Australian research/evaluations for best practice in Indigenous suicide prevention through an Indigenous ‘lens’ for Indigenous peoples, to identify the need and facilitate innovative research, to translate best practice for practical application for stakeholders. This presentation will review main messages from the Solutions That Work Report and work of the CBPATSISP.
Dr Steven Stack – ‘Does Religiousness Prevent Suicide? An Analysis of Youth & Young Adults in 26 Asia/Pacific Nations’
Abstract: Following Durkheim’s (1897/1966) classic work, religiosity has often been found to be a protective factor against suicide in sociological work. However, it has received relatively little attention in suicidology (Collucci & Martin, 2008; Stack & Kposowa, 2011; 2016). In addition, existing work has been disproportionately based on the US and other developed nations following the Judeo-Christian cultural tradition. Little work is based on less developed nations and nations in other culture zones of the world including those following Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Further, there is a relative neglect of the extent to which the protective effect of religiousness may vary across stages of the life course. The present study addresses these limitations by using data on a large number of respondents representing a diversity of culture zones of the world. It focuses on the link between religiousness and suicidality among youth in the Asia/Pacific region, but also draws attention to the latter stages of the life course and the world as a whole.
Professor Lai Fong Chan – ‘Suicide Prevention in Physicians and Medical Trainees: A Call for Action’
Abstract: Medicine is a high-risk occupation for suicide, with particular vulnerabilities among female physicians and medical trainees. The burden of suicidal behavior among physicians extends beyond the individual level to directly impacting patient care. Specific suicide risk factors for suicidal behavior among physicians and medical trainees include ready access to dangerous methods and stigma compounding barriers to accessing mental health treatment in the context of a role reversal from doctor to patient. A supportive organizational culture and empowering leadership are potentially protective against suicidal ideation. Cross-cultural similarities and differences in help-seeking behavior for suicidal ideation among medical students will be discussed. Further systematic research is urgently needed in terms of increasing the evidence-base for culturally specific and effective suicide preventive interventions at the organizational and individual level among physicians and medical trainees, especially in under-resourced developing nations.
Professor Ying Yeh Chen – ‘Neuro-developmental disorders and suicidal behaviors’
Abstract: The link between several mental disorders in children, such as intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with suicidal behaviors has not been rigorously investigated.
Intellectual disability: Several studies have identified lower cognitive ability to be a robust risk factor for suicidal behaviors, particularly in men. Findings on the associations between IQ and suicide in women are inconsistent. However, the majority of the study participants in the existing analysis on IQ and suicide were individuals with normal cognitive ability, as people with intellectual disabilities were not included. Although sparse, current evidence seems to suggest that slightly higher IQs are associated with suicide risk in the population with intellectual disability.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Very few studies have investigated the relationship between ASD and suicidal behaviors, however high rates of co-occurring depression, anxiety, impulsivity/aggression and bullying victimization in children with ASD indicate that the risk of suicide in this diagnostic group should not be overlooked. Empirical studies have not provided a consistent figure on the risk of suicide in individuals with ASD. More research is needed.
ADHD: A positive association between ADHD and risk of suicide has been consistently documented. The role of ADHD in suicide is particularly important in young children, as impulsivity rather than depression is the most important risk factor for suicide in young children. Owing to the high rates of comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders, many studies have suggested that the elevated risk of suicide in ADHD is mediated by psychiatric comorbidity. It remains under debate whether there is a direct effect of ADHD on the risk of suicide.
Although suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young age groups in many developed countries, knowledge regarding the incidence, determining factors and pathways between childhood mental disorders and the risk of suicide is still limited. Future research directions will be discussed in the presentation.
Dr Jemaima Tiatia Seath – ‘Pacific Suicide Prevention: Defining it Ourselves’
Abstract: General findings of Pacific suicide prevention and postvention research in Aotearoa New Zealand will be presented. Evidence informed understandings will be imparted around the complexities of Pacific suicide, along with Pacific infused responses. This insight primarily derives from Tiatia-Seath’s 20 years of research, teaching and services to the area. She will also discuss areas for prioritisation underpinned by Pacific epistemologies. Reflecting on the words of the late Epeli Hauofa – “we as Pacific peoples are called to rediscover our ‘sea of islands’…our ancestors, who had lived in the Pacific for over 2000 years, viewed their world as a ‘sea of islands’, rather than ‘islands in a far sea.’” By this measure, Tiatia-Seath rejects imperialist assumptions and argues that Pacific suicide prevention and postvention, if it is to be effective, must first be defined within the constructs of what it is to be Pacific.
Professor Annette Erlangsen – ‘Suicide across the lifespan: prevention of suicide among older adults’
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Suicides occur across the entire lifespan. However, older adults hold the highest suicide rates of all age segments on a worldwide level. The objective of this talk is to provide an overview of recent trends and characteristics of suicide among older adults. In addition, an assessment of preventive efforts directed at older adults and their evidence is offered.
METHODS AND MATERIAL: Existing studies regarding suicide trends, methods and systematic reviews of suicide preventions efforts were assessed to generate a summary of current trends and evidence of effective interventions.
RESULTS: Based on data from countries reporting cause of death statistics, suicides rates are found to be highest among the oldest age groups on a worldwide level. Among older adults, highly lethal methods, such as hanging and shooting account for the major shares of suicides. Distinct differences in choice of methods are found across a range of countries, which in parts relates to availably of means. The high lethality of suicidal behaviour among older adults emphasises the need for identification of persons at risk prior to suicidal actions. Also, the large share of undiagnosed depression, particularly among older adult men, points in the direction of GP-based interventions, possibly combined with social community-based efforts.
CONCLUSION: Reductions in suicide rates hinge upon directing effective interventions towards those age segments at high risk. It is, however, important to focus on preventive efforts that address the specific characteristics of older adults at risk of suicide. There remains a substantial need for scientific evaluations of interventions for older adults.
Dameyon Bonson – ‘Indigenous LGBQTI Suicide Prevention – Black Rainbow, from social media to social enterprise.’
Abstract: DB&AF, Black Rainbow
In 2013, Dameyon Bonson, an Indigenous gay male with several years frontline experience in some of Australia’s most remote regions noted for high incidences of Indigenous suicide, frustrated with the lack of traction on the heightened risk of suicide for the Indigenous Australian Lesbian Gay Bisexual Queer Trans Intersex (LGBQTI) people turned to social media and created Black Rainbow . It’s premise, to create something that was free and accessible that positively promoted and increased the visibility of Indigenous Australian LGBQTI people.
Through the sustained use of this medium, Black Rainbow, has not only raised the previously unacknowledged profile of Indigenous Australian LGBQTI suicide, it has transformed its social media presence into a social enterprise that supports Indigenous Australian LGBQTI people as it works toward the prevention of suicide.
To date, both Black Rainbow’s social media accounts, Twitter and Facebook, have amassed a combined following of over 13,000 people and has fundraised close to $45,000. These donations have assisted in the production of Australia’s first and only ever report in suicide prevention that is specific to Indigenous LGBQTI people in Australia as well as the provision of pre-purchased phone and data credit to Indigenous Australian LGBQTI people who may be homeless, attempting to leave a domestic violent relationship or are engaged in the criminal justice system Black Rainbow also offers micro-grants of $200 for Indigenous Australian LGBQTI people to host social events in their communities.
Guided by an advisory group of six Indigenous people from the LGQBTI community, Black Rainbow has become a national touchpoint on issues relating the health and wellbeing, including mental health, for Indigenous LGBQTI people. It has informed several projects and reports, all with national footprints.
Informed by the crowdfunded report, Voices from the Black Rainbow – findings from insider research in the suicide prevention and wellbeing of Indigenous LGBQTI people in Australia, Black Rainbow’s next steps in its social enterprise agenda is the national roll out, and accreditation, of Australia’s first Indigenous LGBQTI Inclusive Practices workshop across all primary health care settings.
To date, Black Rainbow has received no government funding.
Professor Brian Mishara – ‘Which Recommendations for Safe Messaging about Suicide in Public Communications should we follow and why: Comparison of Guidelines and Research Evidence’
Abstract: There are many different guidelines for safe messaging about suicide in public communications and heterogeneous scientific research on the topic. A comparison of guidelines and analysis of the relevance of research may help determine best practices. We systematically searched databases and websites over the past 15 years for guidelines on what constitutes safe public communications about suicide and research evidence about communications practices in suicide prevention. We identified 24 public messaging guidelines, 11 additional guidelines on terminology and 45 research papers. No recommendations were present in all guidelines and there was more agreement on what not to do than on what should be done. Recommendations present in at least half of guidelines were: avoid glorifying suicide, not describing suicide methods, not stating that suicide in inexplicable or give simplistic explanations, not stating that suicide is frequent in specific circumstances, and encourage help seeking. There were disagreements on whether or not to include personal details about a person who died by suicide. No guidelines provided empirical research to substantiate recommendations. Recommendations were sometimes justified by perceived implications for understanding suicide, avoiding stigmatisation and their perceived impact. Concerning terminology, there was general agreement about not using several terms. Only “died by suicide” was recommended by a majority. Some terminology appears both as recommended and as to be avoided, including “suicide attempt,” “attempt to end his life,” “attempted suicide,” “non-fatal attempt at suicide,” “unintentional (death),” “intentional self-harm,” “suicidal ideation,” “completed suicide,” “survivor,” and “suicide loss survivor.” The research papers had a wide range of objectives, methodologies, messaging media studied and target populations. None provided empirical data that could help support or refute any of the recommendations. There is a need for more research to validate recommendations, as well as on using different terminology in public communications about suicide, in order to help establish greater consensus. We present the recommendations for which there is general agreement and that have cogent arguments for their use, and discuss the basis of disagreements about safe messaging practices and how they may be resolved.
Dr Allison Milner – ‘Suicide, gender and employment in a global world: opportunities and challenges for prevention initiatives’
Abstract: Researchers have documented a link between employment and suicide for over 120 years. These studies have demonstrated elevated rates of suicide in certain occupations and, at a population level, have shown increases in suicide rates during times of economic stress. However, until recently, understanding of the mechanisms through which employment contributes to suicide has been lacking. Further, and more importantly, there has been limited attention into the possibility of workplace based suicide prevention activities.
This special lecture will describe the current state of knowledge about suicide, employment and work. In particular, it will explore the contribution of the psychosocial work environment, gender, socioeconomic conditions and other wider external influences on suicide among employed persons. The second half of the lecture provides a rationale for workplace suicide prevention drawing on epidemiological and relevant intervention research. It will also provide an overview of evidence regarding workplace based suicide prevention activities, with specific reference to well established programs in Australia. The lecture will conclude by providing priorities and areas of future action for workplace suicide prevention and research activities.
Dr Kairi Kolves – ‘Farmer suicides: prevalence, profiles and trajectories’
Abstract: Elevated suicide rates among farmers have been reported in a number of countries. In Australia, agricultural workers have been found to have the highest suicide rates compared to other occupational groups. Research has suggested a number of individual, social, economic, and environmental factors may contribute to the increased suicide risk in farmers. The farming specific factors that have been proposed include long working hours, low income with high assets, geographical isolation, an overlap of work and family environments; masculine ideals; poor-access to health care services; an ageing rural population; regulatory and industry factors beyond the farmer’s control; prolonged periods of climate variability. There is a gap in understanding of how different factors may lead farmers’ to suicide. The aim of the presentation is to present the results from a recent Australian Research Council funded project ‘Influences of farmer suicides in Queensland and New South Wales’. The project utilised both quantitative and qualitative study designs to determine the prevalence of suicide in farming-related occupations; risk profiles and trajectories to suicide in farmers and perceived risk factors and attitudes towards suicide and help seeking in farming communities. In addition, learnings from the project will be discussed.
Dr Kahu Kathryn McClintock – ‘Waka Hourua Māori Suicide Prevention Community Initiatives’
Abstract: This presentation acknowledges the achievements of the 47 Waka Hourua Māori Suicide Prevention initiatives, located under the three goals of the Waka Hourua outcomes framework: Goal one – informed, cohesive and resilient communities; goal two – strong, secure and nurturing whānau (family); and goal three, safe, confident and engaged rangatahi (youth). The immediate impacts of the 47 Waka Hourua Māori community projects are acknowledged as active participation, positive learning and the attainment of new knowledge that by their own accounts, strengthened suicide prevention in the many communities for whānau (family) and rangatahi (youth). Also, embedded in the 47 reports are notions that meeting community, whānau and rangatahi aspirations, ensuring positive cultural involvement and participating in strength based experiences contribute to health and wellbeing and therefore increases the possibility of suicide prevention.
Professor Lakshmi Vijayakumar – ‘Suicide in young women—The untold story’
Abstract: Seventy six (76%) percent of suicide occur in Low and Middle Income Countries (LAMICS) with majority occurring in Asian region with young woman forming a particularly vulnerable group.
The male female ratio of suicide in LAMICS is 1.5 compared 3.5 in high income countries signifying that more woman die by suicide in these countries compared to woman in developed countries. In South East Asian region the suicide rate is high in woman between 15 to 29 years of age.
Suicides due to family problems, marital conflict, love failure, extra marital affairs, divorce and illegitimate pregnancy and other conflicts related to marriage are common in Asian women. Unique cultural factors like dowry, one child norm, preference for male child are considerable stressors for young women of Asia. The frequent occurrence of suicide pacts and family suicides where women outnumber men are seen in India, Sri Lanka and China.
Considering the human and economic resource constraints, suicide prevention strategies should be “nested” in programmes which addresses education, economic empowerment and enhanced social status of woman.
Reducing suicides in Young woman in LAMICS is an urgent global public health priority.
Dr Sally Spencer Thomas – ‘Workplace suicide prevention’
Abstract: Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S., communities are learning more about what can be done to prevent suicide and how to compassionately respond in the wake of such a tragedy. As part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, workplace communities are learning more about what can be done to prevent suicide and how to compassionately respond in the wake of such a tragedy. Employers now realize they must move beyond superficial awareness campaigns and develop sustained, proactive and comprehensive strategies to shift culture and save lives. In this presentation, participants will learn about how the suicide continuum impacts communities, systems and individuals. Dr. Spencer-Thomas identifies best practices within a public health approach and gives participants “upstream, midstream and downstream” action steps.
GOAL: To increase confidence and competence among participants in addressing suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.
Objectives: By the end of the presentation, participants will be able to:
Articulate relevant trends in suicide data in the U.S.
Categorize high risk groups for suicide death
Describe at least three reasons justifying suicide prevention in the workplace
Identify at least three key strategies in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention
List at least three best practices for suicide crisis response
Appreciate spiritual and faith-based dimensions on healing after suicide
Professor Yutaka Motohashi MD, PhD – ‘New Suicide Prevention Strategy of Japan: With Special Reference To Suicide Prevention in Youth Generation’
Abstract: In Japan, the Basic Law on Suicide Countermeasures went into effect in April 2016. Furthermore, on July 25, 2017, the government of Japan approved the new General Principles of Suicide Prevention Policy. The philosophy of this General Principles is to “realize a society in which no one is driven to take their own life” by once again affirming that the essence of suicide countermeasures lies in help for living and by setting forth the philosophy that these measures “support people’s lives.” The suicide rate per 100000 people in youth, particularly in below 19 years of age drastically increased in 1998, and did not decrease as other age groups. This issue is an emergency challenge to Japan.
The new strategy focuses on suicide prevention in youth generation, for example, a training program for school students entitled ‘How to raise an SOS when you face a crisis’. The other program is to strengthen suicide countermeasures that make use of information and communications technology (ICT) in young generation. As young people are said to have a tendency to drop hints about suicide on the Internet or social networking sites or search the Internet for suicide methods, countermeasures to strengthen not just activities such as home visits and speaking to them in public, but also outreach measures for young people that make use of information and communications technology.
Thus, suicide countermeasures shall be deployed as comprehensive support for young people’s lives from the stance of lowering the suicide risk in society as a whole.
Ms Jill Fisher – ‘Suicide Postvention past, present and future across the Asia Pacific region and beyond…‘
Abstract: This lecture will briefly discuss the impact of suicide on individuals, families, friends, associates and communities and examine the history, growth and effectiveness of International and Asia Pacific suicide postvention activities. The lecture will review current and emerging responses to the aftermath of suicide, latest research outcomes and the need for genuine collaboration, care and courage to reduce suicide and its impact across this region.