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Better Support: Understanding the needs of family and friends when a loved one attempts suicide

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Better Support: Understanding the needs of family and friends when a loved one attempts suicide

With funding from both the Grenet Merrin and Ian Potter Foundations, and support from academics based at the University of New England, SANE Australia is pleased to present its findings in the first phase of the Better Support project. This two-phased project explores the needs of families and friends supporting those who have attempted suicide. 

The report interrogates two main questions: 

  1. What are the experiences of family, friends and significant others who support a loved one after a suicide attempt?
  2. What resources, interventions or improvements would family, friends and significant others like to see in order to provide better support to someone who has attempted suicide?

There is potential to leverage this mostly unacknowledged support system of care-givers as a key suicide prevention strategy – if they are provided with better supports, and their supports are more fully integrated into professional healthcare systems.

By examining the results from the mixed methodology, the report draws four key recommendations:  

  • Recommendation One: Increase understanding within the healthcare sector about the crucial role that families, friends and other care-givers play in supporting people after suicide attempt, particularly where the individual has complex mental health needs. Encourage health professionals to listen, recognise and respect the expertise and experience of these care-givers.
  • Recommendation Two: A review of the standard emergency department processes and practices after a suicide attempt in each state and territory in Australia. Care-givers must play a central role in developing recommendations for change and a clear roadmap for implementation of those changes.
  • Recommendation Three: Develop a simple resource for staff in emergency departments and other healthcare settings to assist and improve how they respond to care-givers. This should provide practical information to help foster a culture of shared decision-making and collaborative engagement with care-givers to improve the care, support and treatment provided.
  • Recommendation Four: The development of a care-giver resource – delivered by SANE as part of the Better Support project – that is practical, accessible and engaging.

Elevate the voices of people with lived experience. The high participation rate of participants demonstrates that care-givers are willing to share their experiences and contribute to change. A platform must be provided in order for the voices of those who care for people who have attempted suicide to be heard. Their expertise and contribution can play an essential role in suicide prevention.

Read or download the full report below:


Better Support: Understanding the needs of family and friends when a loved one attempts suicide (PDF 812KB)

Last updated: 30 September, 2019

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