The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) Critical Response Project (WA) arose out of ATSISPEP’s work to identify success factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereon Indigenous) suicide prevention.

This work included a roundtable to consider a model for critical responses in Indigenous communities as suicide prevention activity. The term ‘critical response’ indicates a response to two types of critical incident:

  • The first is a suicide or a situation where suicide is a high risk. Responses after a death by suicide are referred to as postvention responses. A postvention response occurs after a suicide and is provided to the family, kin and community of the deceased. A postvention response is a form of suicide prevention because after a suicide, the family, kin and community of the deceased might be at elevated risk of suicide.
  • The second is traumatic incidents such as murders and multiple casualty events. Here, too, the family, kin and community of the deceased might be at elevated risk of suicide.

Following the roundtable, the ATSISPEP Critical Response Project (WA) was established. This offered two streams of activity: the Critical Response Stream and the Community Development Stream.

The main elements of the Critical Response Stream were:

  • A lead Critical Response Advocate (CRA) and an alternate CRA to ensure a 24 hour, 7 days a week service that operated year-round
  • Notification processes including a dedicated phone line for use by families affected by critical incidents.
  • Phone based work by the CRA that involved utilising and coordinating existing community services and agencies to provide the first level of critical response.

The Community Development Stream demonstrated the importance of and need for:

  • Proactive critical response planning prior to critical incidents rather than being reactive;
  • Empowering local communities to provide local suicide prevention activity and critical responses; and
  • Ensuring the cultural safety of service environments and cultural competence in service delivery when delivering critical responses, and working with Indigenous community-controlled organisations and ACCHSs to deliver and support community- specific, controlled and located development activities
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