Suicide prevention congress brings together experts and experience

Samantha Gray

For the first time ever, the International Congress of Suicide Prevention will be held fully online to connect academics, researchers, practitioners, and those with lived experience on a global scale.

Suicide is a public health issue that affects individuals, families, workplaces, and communities all over the world.

Approximately 700,000 people die by suicide every year, with over 75% of suicides occurring in low-and-middle income countries.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) consists of partners from 78 countries all dedicated to preventing suicide and suicidal behaviour, and to alleviate its effects.

IASP President Professor Rory O’Connor said there are considerable concerns about the impacts of Covid-19 on mental health and suicide rates.

“The 31st World Congress is a unique opportunity to learn, share and advocate for the need for greater awareness,” he said.

Epidemiologist and public health physician, Dr David Gunnell, will be hosting a Covid-19 panel with experts from Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

“It’s a group of leading experts who have been researching the early impacts of the pandemic on suicide and suicide behaviour around the world, and it’s getting their insights of what they’ve learnt from their research and what they think the next steps might be in terms of suicide prevention,” Dr Gunnell said.

The Congress is bringing leading public health experts alongside people with lived experience, a unique approach that Roses in the Ocean CEO Bronwen Edwards calls “the golden thread”.

“People with lived experience have the ability through their hard-earned insights to be the golden thread that weaves through services, connects services, fills in the gaps where there aren’t services and make a difference,” she said.

“There is no way you can provide a service if you don’t know what the people need.”

“If you want to know how to support a carer of someone who is suicidal, like a parent who goes and checks on their kid every morning hoping that they’re alive, you’ve got to talk to those parents to know what it’s like,” she said.

The Gold Coast Congress was to be the first time the world leaders in the field gathered in Australia since 1997, but due to current border restrictions, the fully-digital format will allow attendees access to recorded sessions as well as live Q&As with the delegates.

Day one of the Congress is opening up with a free event showcasing six early career researchers in a Pechakucha-style presentation.

You can join in and watch the presentations here.

If this article has affected you in any way, please contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, 24 hours, 7 days a week, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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