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Suicide Prevention Australia Conference, Hobart July 2015

posted Jul 31, 2015, 2:53 AM by SBRL Glasgow   [ updated Apr 1, 2016, 2:04 AM by Glasgow Wellbeing ]

I am writing this en route back from Suicide Prevention Australia’s National Conference, which was held in Hobart between 26 and 29 July 2015 – grabbing a few minutes between flights at Hobart, Melbourne and Dubai airports. 

I was delighted to be an international plenary speaker (together with Professor Heidi Hjelmeland, Norwegian University of Science & Technology and Dr DeQuincy Lezine, Prevention Communities, USA) at the conference.
  The conference was an invigorating and enriching experience – with almost 400 delegates from across Australia, representing the research, policy, practice and lived experience sectors. 

There were many conference highlights/key messages but a number have really stayed with me.  The first was the central participation of those with lived experience in all aspects of the conference.  Indeed, Dr DeQuincy Lezine talked movingly about his struggles with suicidality as well as describing some of his pioneering  advocacy work ensuring lived experience informs research, policy and practice.  Professor Heidi Hjelmeland, drawing from work in Europe and Africa, highlighted the central role of context in understanding suicidal risk and warned against reductionist approaches to suicide research. 

Although I knew that the rate of suicide among Indigenous peoples in Australia was higher than non-Indigenous Australians I hadn’t quite appreciated the scale of the disparity.  The suicide rate among Indigenous Australians is now the 12th highest in the world (Dr Tom Calma, Ambassador for Suicide Prevention Australia). Pre-1960s, suicide was extremely rare in Indigenous communities.

Personally speaking, it was great to talk to so many first time delegates to a suicide prevention conference, who appreciated the diversity of presentations – and also to those delegates (seasoned and new) who offered kind words to me after my presentation on the integrated motivational-volitional (IMV) model of suicidal behaviour. It is incredibly humbling when something you say resonates with those most affected by suicide.  

Suicide Prevention Australia also launched a discussion paper on suicide and suicidal behaviour in women at the conference.  This is a welcome publication, because in recent decades there has been limited focus on female suicidal behaviour (largely because the vast majority of suicides in Western countries are male).

Congratulations to Dr Myf Maple (University of New England), Alan Woodward (Lifeline Research Foundation) and everyone on the Board and staff of Suicide Prevention Australia (led by Sue Murray, CEO) who were responsible for putting together a high quality and varied conference programme not to mention the great reception at Hobart's famous Museum of New and Old Art. Finally, the conference was covered extensively on twitter, so check out #NSPC15 if you'd like more information about what was discussed at the conference.  

Rory O'Connor

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