A USC-led research project to improve access to help for people at risk of taking their own lives has made an impact at a national conference into suicide prevention.
The project team received a first-place award for a poster presentation titled, “Researchers as ranchers on horseback herding cats”, about the challenges and potential solutions involved with researching the complex issue of suicide in regional areas.
USC Lecturer in Social Work Dr Kate Jonathan is lead researcher of the joint study with the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service to map available suicide prevention services and resources in the Fraser Coast.
The study is also determining links between professionals and organisations to aid timely and appropriate referrals and follow-up treatments.
Dr Jonathan said the recent National Suicide Prevention Conference in Melbourne was an opportunity to share insights from their study with health practitioners from across Australia and to highlight the value of prioritising active participation in research.
“Promoting better engagement and appreciation of research by clinicians is needed before we can hope to invest in smarter solutions that will have true community impact,” Dr Jonathan said.
“Suicide is a harrowing national phenomenon and a nightmare for most rural and regional communities,” she said.
“While specific topics are more comfortable to research, suicide is not one of them and we found this, and the workloads of practitioners, are among the key reasons it is challenging to recruit research participants from the health sector.
“Starting this project, we felt like ‘ranchers on horseback chasing cats’ as we initiated one-on-one interviews and focus groups sessions with agencies involved in suicide prevention, including mental health providers and front-line health services.”
Dr Jonathan said that the experience and knowledge of suicide and its prevention from these agencies was essential to their research.
“As researchers we discovered we needed to go the extra mile to gather concrete data to gain a clear picture of the extent of this complex problem, the existing gaps in services, and to make suicide prevention help simpler and more easily accessible.”
The research team includes the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service’s Clinical Director of Addiction Medicine, Mental Health and Specialised services Associate Professor Kees Nydam and senior psychologist and UQ Rural Clinical School lecturer Daniel Banos Illan.