Systems Approach to Suicide Prevention

1 Dec 2015

An evidence-based approach to suicide prevention in Australia

We are pleased to announce that the Paul Ramsay Foundation have engaged in a six year partnership with The Black Dog Institute to tackle suicide prevention in Australia. Under the guidance of CEO Professor Helen Christensen and Chairman Peter Joseph, the Black Dog Institute have launched the implementation of a world first evidence based approach to suicide prevention.

We are extremely excited to partner with such a high quality organisation and to see the results of this collaborative mental health initiative.


Thursday 3rd Dec 2015


$14.7million private donation fills suicide funding gap

  • Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15-44yrs
  • Donation enables world-first trial of new suicide prevention approach in 4 communities


Every year, over 2500 Australians die by suicide and a further 65000 make an attempt.

Today, we are honoured to announce that the Paul Ramsay Foundation have stepped in to financially support the initial implementation of a new, evidence-based approach to suicide prevention in Australia.

According to Prof Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Excellence in Suicide Prevention, we have the knowledge to save thousands of lives and lead the world in suicide prevention activities.

“In partnership with experts and consumers, the National and NSW Mental Health Commissions have both strongly recommended the implementation of an evidence-based and community-focussed approach to suicide prevention.”

“We are extraordinarily grateful to the Paul Ramsay Foundation for acknowledging the strength of the evidence and the severity of the problem, and the to the NSW Mental Health Commission for facilitating the translation of international evidence into a suicide prevention framework.

The systems approach to suicide prevention involves the simultaneous implementation of nine key strategies that target suicide risk both through medical and social interventions.

Local management means services can be tailored to local needs and are coordinated within the community by primary healthcare providers, education system, emergency services, community groups and other stakeholders.

Sites will be selected on the basis of need and will be implemented in partnership with local Primary Health Networks and community organisations. The trial will commence in 2016.

It is estimated that the new evidence-based solution will reduce the Australian suicide rate by at least 20% in just a few years and also significantly improve the lives of those in distress.

“Their support, which represents the largest philanthropic donation ever given to suicide prevention activities in Australia, has the potential to change the way suicide prevention is addressed in Australia, opening the door for a nationally coordinated framework,” says Prof Christensen.

The NSW Mental Health Commission funded the development of the Proposed Suicide Prevention Framework for NSW, which recommended using the systems approach. It also supported the next phase of Professor Christensen’s work, evaluating the operational resources needed to roll out the systems approach to suicide prevention in small towns.

John Feneley, the NSW Mental Health Commissioner, said the persistently high suicide rate meant new initiatives were urgently needed.

“This extraordinary donation lets researchers kick-start an approach that the international evidence suggests has every chance of being highly effective,” Mr Feneley said.

“It is about combining things that are already known to work. What we don’t yet know is exactly how many deaths and suicide attempts we can prevent when we pursue all these proven elements together in a wraparound, community-based response.”

“Seed funding can be the impetus to get important projects off the ground quickly,” Mr Feneley said. “Through the Ramsay Foundation’s leadership this work can now move quickly to the next level.”

The $14.7million donation from the Paul Ramsay Foundation will be used to implement and evaluate this new approach over six years in four sites across NSW.

“We are delighted to be able to support such a high quality organisation as Black Dog Institute in what is an absolutely vital project – Both in terms of saving lives and drawing attention to what is an area of critical need,” says Simon Freeman, CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

“Our Board of Directors highlighted mental health as one of the key areas they wanted the foundation to focus on therefore it is truly fitting that this is the first major grant that we have awarded.”

NSW Minister for Mental Health, the Hon Pru Goward MP will formally launch this new approach at Black Dog Institute on Thursday 3rd December. Further information about the systems approach can be found here