What is LifeSpan?
LifeSpan is a new evidence-based model for integrated, regional suicide prevention in Australia, involving the simultaneous implementation of nine key strategies to reduce suicide.
LifeSpan aims to support people to live full and contributing lives by bringing together healthcare, community services, and those with lived experience within a region, to work collaboratively to implement the multiple strategies within their community.
Strong evidence points to the benefits of combining effective strategies into an integrated approach to suicide prevention. The three key components of LifeSpan include:
- nine evidence-based strategies, targeting population to individual-level risk
- simultaneous implementation of all nine strategies in selected regions
- governance at a local level (integration of non-government organisations (NGOs), primary health care networks, local health districts, education, police and community groups to coordinate action).
Why is LifeSpan needed?
Suicide is a significant global issue and understanding effective suicide prevention interventions has expanded considerably in the past few years.
Suicide rates in Australia have not declined over the past decade, with recent statistics showing they may actually be rising. In 2015, 3,027 Australians died by suicide.
Using the LifeSpan systems approach, estimates suggest it may be possible to prevent 21% of suicide deaths, and 30% of suicide attempts.
The LifeSpan model is evidence-based, and represents current knowledge about best practice in suicide prevention. The new component of the approach being trialied is the simultaneous implementation of nine key evidence-based strategies within a localised area. These strategies are outlined below.
How will LifeSpan be delivered?
In 2015, Black Dog Institute received a philanthropic grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to allow them to test the effectiveness of the LifeSpan model in reducing suicide attempts and deaths. Four sites within New South Wales have been selected to test the implementation of the model. Newcastle is the first site to pilot the integrated approach and we commenced in October 2016. We will be followed by trials in lllawarra Shoalhaven, Gosford/Wyong and the Murrumbidgee.
Implementation will be staged, with one site starting every four months to enable accurate measurements of effectiveness and impact. Each site will have a six month planning phase followed by a two year implementation period.
The evaluation of the LifeSpan trial in NSW consists of four components and will involve comparing rates of suicide deaths and attempts before and after the introduction of the model in each region and comparisons between regions.
There are four layers to the evaluation.
- Primary evaluation: to determine whether there is a reduction in suicide deaths and suicide attempts in communities receiving LifeSpan compared to those who do not receive LifeSpan.
- Secondary evaluation: to determine the intermediate or secondary outcomes associated with the individual strategies including their efficacy and attributed impacts.
- Process evaluation: to determine what aspects of implementation have impacted the outcomes. This will assist in comparing and understanding differences in outcomes between sites implementing LifeSpan.
- Economic evaluation: to determine the cost effectiveness and benefits of LifeSpan. This will allow comparison of changes in rates of suicidal behaviours in LifeSpan sites with the cost of delivering the intervention, minus the costs avoided as a result of averted suicide deaths and attempts.
Further information about the evaluation of LifeSpan will be available as the project progresses.
The LifeSpan Newcastle pilot is being led by the Hunter Alliance, a partnership between the Hunter New England Local Health District (including the Hunter Institute of Mental Health), Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network, Hunter Primary Care and Calvary Mater Newcastle. The pilot builds on collaborative work already occurring in Newcastle between these organisations.
The implementation of the LifeSpan model in Newcastle is only possible through the support of the community and important partners.
A LifeSpan Newcastle suicide prevention collaborative has been established. It is open to all who are interested in suicide prevention, who are committed to using the evidence about what works to inform what we do, and who can support the delivery of LifeSpan in Newcastle.
A range of working groups, drawn from members of the collaborative, will provide specific advice, consultation and leadership to support the delivery of the trial in Newcastle.
A project consortium, comprising of representatives from the Hunter Alliance, provide oversight of the pilot, while the project work is overseen by a local implementation team.
What does being involved in LifeSpan mean for Newcastle
LifeSpan Newcastle provides a unique opportunity for the community to come together, consider our existing local suicide prevention efforts, and to use the evidence base to build on and improve this work.
A suicide prevention implementation plan is being developed locally for Newcastle. As a part of the trial, there will be specific opportunities:
- to participate in education and training relevant to individual community members, health professionals (GPs, Emergency Department staff, allied health providers, psychiatrists), community service providers (e.g. police, drug & alcohol workers) and community groups
- to introduce different interventions that can build the capacity of the service system (e.g. e-mental health programs)
- to trial a universal screening tool in primary care practices
- to support secondary schools to deliver a mental health skills building program for young people
- to work with local media to ensure that the way suicide is reported is safe, sensitive and accurate
- to support a community engagement campaign about what LifeSpan is and its relevance day-to-day
- for people with lived experience to contribute to how LifeSpan is implemented in Newcastle.
What do we want to see?
LifeSpan Newcastle aims to:
- bring together people who are interested in suicide prevention in Newcastle, and in using the evidence to inform what we do
- build community capacity to support people who are suicidal, by providing access to education activities and establishing support structures to help people put what is learnt into practice
- increase the availability of, and access to, evidence-based care
- lead to more people being asked about their mental health and wellbeing as part of routine contact with health service providers, and provided with information about resources and ways to access support
- increase safe and positive public stories of recovery from suicidal crises
- establish clearer referral pathways and more cohesive systems of care
- value and work collaboratively with people with lived experience, as well as clinicians, service providers, and community members across Newcastle.
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