Key forum to mark World Suicide Prevention Day

The emerging issue of suicide in Western Pacific countries will be highlighted at a key forum to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

Dr Allison Milner from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University’s Mt Gravatt campus will discuss the findings of a five-year World Health Organization study at the day-long Brisbane event today(September 8).

The forum’s theme is Preventing Suicide in Multicultural Societies and its program also includes contributions on suicide prevention in Indigenous communities in north Queensland and among the Kimberley and migrant populations.

Dr Milner will outline how suicide is a youth problem in the Western Pacific region, with 41 per cent of those dying in Tonga, Vanuatu and Guam under the age of 24.

She will also describe and analyse the vast difference in methods that exist between Western Pacific countries (hanging, 87 per cent) and Australia and New Zealand (hanging, 50 per cent).

Another common factor in all Western Pacific countries is the large number of female suicides. Alcohol, migration, climate, drugs, crime and unemployment are among the underlying factors.

“Some of the possible explanations for suicide are likely tied to the Westernisation of these countries and the breakdown of traditional family structures,” Dr Milner said.

The Suicide Trends in At-Risk Territories (START) project is a collaboration now involving academic input from China, Hong Kong, South America and Italy. It has been initiated across 18 countries in the Western Pacific region.

The creator of the study was AISRAP Director, Professor Diego De Leo, who proposed START as a way of developing suicide research and prevention initiatives in countries of the Western Pacific.

Influential church figures in the region have helped the study in establishing a record of fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviour, and in supporting suicide prevention initiatives and raising awareness of suicide issues.

“Up to now very little has been known about whether suicide is an issue in Pacific Island countries. There are very limited records on health and mortality rates, and there is a lack of reliable records on suicidal behaviour.

“These are some of the poorest countries in the world where there are a lot of other competing health priorities. Raising awareness of the issue of suicide is a challenge.”

Professor Diego De Leo will address the topic of Preventing Suicide in Multicultural Societies in his introduction to the forum, while Dr Simone Caynes from Queensland Health and Alan Woodward from Lifeline will also address the subject.

The forum runs from 8.30am to 4pm at the Christie Conference Centre, Adelaide Street, Brisbane.

World Suicide Prevention Day is held globally on September 10 each year.

Methods of non-fatal suicidal behaviours in Western Pacific countries will be among the topics of discussion at the International Association for Suicide Prevention World Congress.

AISRAP will represented at the congress, which runs from September 13-17, by Professor De Leo, Dr Milner and Dr Kairi Kolves (Deputy Director).