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The University of Melbourne study found prevention approaches such as placing signs and crisis-assistance numbers and increasing the likelihood of intervention by a third party significantly reduced the number of deaths at these locations.
According to statistics from crisis service provider Lifeline, deaths by suicide in Australia have reached a 10-year peak with twice as many people dying from suicide than in road-related deaths.
“These key interventions have the potential to complement each other and buy time to allow an individual to reconsider their actions and allow others the opportunity to intervene,” said the lead author of the study, Professor Jane Pirkis.
One location the study cites was The Gap, an ocean cliff in eastern Sydney in Watsons Bay where an inwardly curved fence was built along the cliff’s edge, and telephones and signs were installed linking directly to Lifeline.
The paper found interventions to restrict access resulted in 91 per cent fewer suicides per year when looked at in combination with other interventions and a 93 per cent reduction when used in isolation.
“Although suicide methods at high-risk locations are not the most common ways for people to take their own lives and may only have a small impact on overall suicide rates, suicide attempts at these sites are often fatal and attract high-profile media attention which can lead to copycat acts,” Professor Pirkis said.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15-44, and around 2,500 people will die each year from suicide in Australia according to Beyondblue.
Though restricting access to one location could shift the problem elsewhere, the researchers found there was a significant overall reduction in deaths by the same method.
The researchers said blocking access to a hotspot should be a part of the overall regional and national approach to suicide prevention.
According to Beyondblue, 3 million Australians live with depression or anxiety.
There are a number of organisations in Australia that offer crisis support services for suicide prevention, information and resources, both for people who are suicidal and their concerned loved ones. These include:
Suicide Prevention Australia: visit www.suicidepreventionaust.org
The Black Dog Institute: visit www.blackdoginstitute.org.au