Contributors to Thoughts of Suicide in Young Australians
When statistics show that more than eight people die by suicide in Australia each day and around 65,300 attempt suicide each year, research into how to prevent suicide is more critical than ever.
Australian Rotary Health has awarded funding to researchers across the country who have a passion for learning more about suicide and how to best support people who are suicidal.
Dr Tonelle Handley from the University of New South Wales is one of these researchers and was awarded the Geoffrey Betts Postdoctoral Fellowship from 2014-2016 to look at contributors to thoughts of suicide across diverse groups, with a particular focus on young Australians.
These groups included those with mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems, chronic physical illness, and those living in rural and remote parts of Australia.
“One thing that surprised me is that across all these different groups, a lot of the risk and protective factors were the same,” Dr Handley said.
One finding that came up a lot in Dr Handley’s research was how important it is to have social support when going through mental health problems.
“Having strong social networks and people you can turn to when things are going badly is important for everyone, but my research findings suggest that this may be even more important for younger people.”
“Young people who felt that they had good social networks were less likely to report things like psychological distress and thoughts of suicide.”
However, these findings were not related to the number of friends or family members these people had, but rather about the quality of those relationships.
Another strong protective factor against poor mental health for young people was employment.
“This wasn’t related to income or financial factors but seems to be more to do with providing a sense of purpose for young people. Again, this effect was much stronger for younger people than for people in older age groups,” Dr Handley said.
These research findings are just the beginning, as Dr Handley’s focus is on long-term, whole of community studies that try to identify risk and protective factors on a large scale.
“We often follow the same people for years and look at how their mental health changes over time, and the things that contribute to that change.”
“Being able to work with local communities and help them to identify their own strengths really goes a long way to developing sustainable strategies to improve the mental health of their young people.”
More information about Dr Handley’s work can be found in the following published journal articles:
- Thornton L, Handley TE, Kay-Lambkin FJ, Baker AL. Is a person thinking about suicide likely to find help on the Internet? An evaluation of Google search results. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
- Handley TE, Kay-Lambkin FJ, Baker AL, Lewin TJ, Kelly BJ, Inder KJ, Attia JR, Kavanagh D. Investigation of a suicide ideation risk profile in people with co-occurring depression and substance use disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease
- Handley TE, Ventura A, Browne J, Rich J, Attia JR, Reddy P, Pouwer F, Speight J. (2016). Suicidal ideation reported by adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes: results from Diabetes MILES – Australia. Diabetic Medicine, 33, 1582-1589. doi: 10.1111/dme.13022
- Handley T, Perkins D, Kay-Lambkin F, Lewin T, Kelly B. (2015). Familiarity with and intentions to use internet-delivered mental health treatments among older rural adults. Aging & Mental Health, 19, 989-996. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2014.981744
- Inder KJ, Kay-Lambkin FJ, Handley TE, Yong YM, Lewin TJ, Kelly BJ. Lifetime affective and alcohol use disorder: Impact of comorbidity on current functioning and service use in a rural population (2014). Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, S10:009. doi: 10.4172/2155-6105.S10-009
- Handley TE, Lewin TJ, Perkins D, Kelly BJ. Recognition of mental health problems in a rural Australian sample. Health Promotion Journal of Australia
- Rich J, Handley TE, Inder KJ, Perkins D. An experiment in using open-text comments from the Australian Rural Mental Health Study on health service priorities. Rural and Remote Health
- Inder KJ, Holliday E, Handley TE, Fragar L, Lower T, Booth A, Lewin TJ, Kelly BJ. Depression and risk of non-intentional injury in rural communities – a longitudinal analysis of the Australian Rural Mental Health Study. BMC Public Health
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Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org