Valuing young lives: evaluation of the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy

Suicide Mental health Public health Australia
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The Australian Institute of Family Studies was commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care to evaluate the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, which ran from 1995 to 1999.

Executive summary

The National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy was an initiative of the Commonwealth Government to provide a coordinated approach to youth suicide prevention throughout Australia.
The goals of the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy were to:

  • prevent premature death from suicide among young people;
  • reduce rates of injury and self-harm;
  • reduce the incidence and prevalence of suicidal ideation and behaviour; and
  • enhance resilience, resourcefulness, respect and interconnectedness for young people, their families and communities.

The Strategy was based on the understanding that youth suicide is a complex phenomenon which is caused by a number of interacting factors including biological, psychological, social and cultural factors. This understanding is widely referred to as the biopsychosocial model. The Strategy has also been guided by, and has sought to promote, the principles of the Public Health Approach to enhancing population health and wellbeing. Valuing young lives Consistent with the biopsychosocial model of causality and the principles of the Public Health Approach, the Strategy employed a variety of interventions including those that modify individual risk factors and protective factors, as well those that modify the physical, social and cultural factors that shape environments:

  • primary prevention and cultural change;
  • early intervention;
  • crisis intervention and primary care;
  • treatment, support and postvention; and
  • access to means/injury prevention.

A major emphasis of the Strategy was on building the capacity of existing services and programs to provide more effective responses to the needs of young people rather than creating new services and programs. System level activities aimed to facilitate the adoption of evidence-based practice throughout all the service systems relevant to youth suicide prevention and included:

  • policy and planning;
  • research and evaluation;
  • communications (identification and dissemination of good practice);
  • education and training;
  • networking and intersectoral collaboration; and
  • community development.
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