IHMRI researcher welcomes $100,000 grant for investigation into aftercare

Associate Professor Vida Bliokas and her team from the UOW School of Psychology (above) have received almost $100,000 under Suicide Prevention Australia’s Innovation Grant scheme.

Professor Bliokas and the team were awarded funding for their project: ‘Investigating gender differences in a suicide prevention aftercare program: How can we improve outcomes for all?’

The grant will fund a two year project investigating the impact of suicide prevention service, the Next Steps Aftercare Program.

“This funding will allow us to collect sufficient data for a well-powered study to look at gender differences in the outcomes of the aftercare program,” she said.

In 2018, suicide made up for more than one third of deaths among people aged 15-24.

Current data shows that men have higher rates of suicide than women, with suicide the tenth most common cause of death among males. Despite this, they access the least amount of services. Professor Bliokas hopes to investigate the reason behind this pattern.

“The programs are not a one size fits all. We need to understand what sort of program will suit male and female participants, and we need to investigate this in a lot more detail.”

“Receiving this grant is important because it will help us to understand which interventions assist people in their recovery following a suicide attempt, or a time when they were at high risk for suicide,” she said.

Suicide prevention in the COVID-19 context

The funding is a welcome boost in 2020, as there has been ample concern around the effects of isolation on mental wellbeing.

Professor Bliokas said that while mental health services have adapted to an online delivery, it is important to look out for vulnerable people who might be hardest hit by the restrictions.

“For those feeling high levels of distress during these times, it is important to provide a listening ear, support and understanding, and encouragement to seek professional help, either face-to-face or via the various Telehealth or phone options,” she said.

“I encourage people to keep aware of their own signs of stress, use their support resources and own strategies as much as possible, and also reach out to professionals, who are there to help.”

Professor Bliokas is also a founding member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, which was created at an IHMRI team meeting in 2015.

The Collaborative has grown to be a partnership of more than 40 local organisations that work together to prevent suicide in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, including working with local workplaces and schools to educate people on how to talk about suicide.

The organisation is still working tirelessly to prevent suicide in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, while maintaining distancing measures.

“We have continued to work productively together, albeit via videoconferencing links. Many services have now moved to Telehealth or phone calls with people seeking help.”

If you or someone you know needs help, you can get help from the following Support Services:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 659 467

Reach Out: ReachOut.com

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