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RANZCP President's new taskforce tackling suicide prevention

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is putting together a new taskforce to better channel the efforts of psychiatry and achieve a meaningful reduction of suicide and deliberate self-harm in our communities.

The announcement of the new taskforce comes at a time of increasing public interest and government focus on the issue of suicide in Australia and New Zealand.

The RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan, said: ‘Psychiatrists are often called upon to provide opinion and expertise on this issue.’

‘The work of this taskforce will complement the good work that is already being done in this space.

‘This is a confronting and challenging issue for all of us, everyone is impacted by suicide and it is a growing public health concern.’

‘As well as the loss of the person who dies by suicide, there is a deep impact on families, friends, colleagues, treating psychiatric and other health professionals, and the wider community.

‘In light of the latest evidence on suicide rates, we all have to acknowledge the painful truth that despite our efforts, current suicide prevention strategies are on the whole not achieving the change we want,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘Over a five year period from 2013 to 2017 in Australia, the average number of suicide deaths per year was 2,918. In 2017, preliminary data shows a total of 3,128 deaths by suicide, rising from 2,866 deaths in the previous year.’

The recently released provisional suicide statistics for New Zealand also show the rate has increased (by 17 deaths) in the last year.

Associate Professor Allan emphasised that as the leading professional organisation for psychiatrists the RANZCP needed to play a more active role in reducing suicide.

‘We need to more fully engage with the community, with government, and the wider mental health sector to develop a better understanding of suicide and its risks, and the ways we can all work together to reduce these deaths.

‘Suicides are preventable, and every life matters.’

The new taskforce will bring to bear the full expertise, experience and commitment of psychiatrists in meeting this challenge.

‘I have brought together a selection of psychiatrists with a broad-ranging and deep understanding of the many factors underlying suicidality,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘This is about bringing new ideas and thoughts to the table that are grounded in evidence and best-practice principles. Although not everybody who dies by suicide has a mental illness, appropriate care of mental illness and response to suicidal crisis is a fundamental part of our efforts to prevent suicide.

‘Our task is maximise our efforts, as a medical college and psychiatrists, to ensure the design and implementation of policy, programs, training and services targeting suicidal ideation and behaviour will work and have a positive impact.’

‘Suicide is a complex issue but we must urgently find ways to better help people in need and reduce the impact of suicide on our families, whānau and communities.’

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