Journal article

A decision-support tool to inform Australian strategies for preventing suicide and suicidal behaviour

Suicide Public health Mental health promotion Australia

Dynamic simulation modelling is increasingly being recognised as a valuable decision-support tool to help guide investments and actions to address complex public health issues such as suicide. In particular, participatory system dynamics (SD) modelling provides a useful tool for asking high-level ‘what if’ questions, and testing the likely impacts of different combinations of policies and interventions at an aggregate level before they are implemented in the real world.

We developed an SD model for suicide prevention in Australia, and investigated the hypothesised impacts over the next 10 years (2015–2025) of a combination of current intervention strategies proposed for population interventions in Australia:

(1) general practitioner (GP) training

(2) coordinated aftercare in those who have attempted suicide

(3) school-based mental health literacy programs

(4) brief-contact interventions in hospital settings, and

(5) psychosocial treatment approaches

Findings suggest that the largest reductions in suicide were associated with GP training (6%) and coordinated aftercare approaches (4%), with total reductions of 12% for all interventions combined. This paper highlights the value of dynamic modelling methods for managing complexity and uncertainty, and demonstrates their potential use as a decision-support tool for policy makers and program planners for community suicide prevention actions.

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