Frontline staff undergoing suicide prevention training

by L&D19 Jul 2016
The rate of suicide in Queensland is consistently higher than the national average over the past decade, with more than 600 people in the state taking their own lives each year.

In hospital and health services across Queensland, suicide prevention training is currently underway for frontline staff.

Cameron Dick, Queensland’s Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, said emergency department nurses and other frontline acute mental health care staff are undertaking suicide risk identification training.

It comes following the advocacy of Kerrie Keepa, who lost her son to suicide, and will continue to roll out this financial year as part of the Palaszczuk Government’s $9.6 million commitment over three years.

“Shortly after I became Health Minister, I met Kerrie Keepa, who after suffering tragedy in her life, was seeking to make meaningful change with better suicide‑prevention training for staff in our emergency departments,” said Dick.

“Frontline staff across the state are now being trained in recognising, responding to, and caring for people who present to hospital and health services with a suicide risk.

Moreover, Keepa has acknowledged that the training is a "fantastic initiative" that is important to prevent other families from experiencing tragedy.

“I understand this initiative has already been well received and frontline staff are recognising its value when applying it to their work, which makes it even more attractive to the thousands more soon to be trained,” said Keepa.

More than 140 clinicians have been trained in this train-the-trainer program, with another nine clinicians from the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service expected to be trained in September.

“As this initiative extends its reach, about 5000 health staff on the frontline at our hospitals across the state will be primed to better respond to potential suicide cases, and, ultimately, help prevent them occurring,” said Dick.

Princess Alexandra Hospital emergency department nurse, Emily Cooper (who has undergone the training) said it is a very confronting question to ask if someone is considering suicide, so this is a more structured approach to identify people who are at risk.

“Appropriate questioning is the key to this life or death conversation,” said Cooper.

Dick added that about a quarter of people who have died by suspected suicide had contact with a Queensland Health service within seven days before their death.

“Research also indicates that a significant proportion of people who die by suicide had recent contact with a primary healthcare provider prior to their death,” said Dick.

“Staff in hospital emergency departments are particularly well-placed to recognise and intervene with suicidal people.

“This initiative is about building capacity of frontline staff within our hospital and health services and our partner primary healthcare providers – even if they are not mental health professionals – to recognise and respond to people at risk of suicide.”

Meanwhile, it was also recently revealed that West Australians are only half as likely to use crisis support services as others across the nation, despite having one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

If you need help call Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis telephone line on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

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