Tackling Peel suicides: Police and health department team up for revolutionary trial

Teaming up: Peel, Rockingham and Kwinana Community Response Steering Group chairman Steve Batson (left) and Mandurah Police Sergeant Paul Trimble (right). Photos: Supplied.
Teaming up: Peel, Rockingham and Kwinana Community Response Steering Group chairman Steve Batson (left) and Mandurah Police Sergeant Paul Trimble (right). Photos: Supplied.

WA Police and the health department have teamed up for a revolutionary new trial in the Peel region to support families and communities following a suspected suicide.

In an Australian first, Mandurah District Police and the WA Primary Health Alliance will complete a direct referral following a suspected suicide which includes support services immediately reaching out to the family within 24 hours.

Police and the Peel and Rockingham Kwinana Community Response Steering Group (PaRK) will implement the 12-month trial, developed in response to a spate of eight suspected suicides from Rockingham to Harvey in 2016.

Three Mandurah boys between 14 and 17 years old, took their own lives in the space of five months.

The trial aims to prevent the ‘domino effect’ a suicide can have on a family or the community. 

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As part of the trial, police will provide bereaved family members with details of support agencies and notify the health department, who will reach out immediately. 

Authorities will decide if a coordinated community-wide response is required. 

In the case of a youth suicide, support would be offered to schools, youth services, sporting clubs and priority appointments would be available through GPs and counsellors.  

Emergency departments will be also be alerted to ensure their readiness for an emergency presentation. 

The rapid response means we can now reach out to more people even earlier to offer support in the critical period immediately following a sudden loss.

PaRK Steering Group chairman Steve Batson

Friends and family are 65 per cent more likely to attempt suicide if their loved one died by suicide rather than natural causes, according to a 2016 University College London research study.

PaRK Steering Group chairman Steve Batson said prior to the trial, a family would have to wait up to four weeks to be offered counselling by the Coroner’s office.

“Whilst this is very helpful, we are trying to support a timelier and more local response,” he said.

Mr Batson said people bereaved by suicide can become isolated or feel stigmatised.

He said the factors that led to the suicide occurring often affect the bereaved including financial hardship and relationship issues.  

“These hinder the normal grief process and left unsupported the bereaved are more likely to experience physical and mental health issues,” Mr Batson said. 

“The addition of the immediate notification service and the rapid response means we can now reach out to more people even earlier to offer support in the critical period immediately following a sudden loss.”

Mandurah Police Sergeant Paul Trimble said a combination of agencies and concerned community members have helped the trial come to fruition. 

“There has been an extensive amount of work involving police and other joint agencies around this trial to ensure families who are bereaved by a loss are receiving the best possible support and care available in the shortest amount of time,” he said.

The collaborative component is part of a larger Peel youth suicide prevention trial which began in January 2018 and is due to end June, 2020.

The results are being evaluated by the University of Melbourne, as part of a national study with 11 other areas taking part in the trial.  

Mr Batson said the overall trial was aimed at reducing youth suicide, but the notification component meant support would be offered to all people experiencing loss following a suicide. 

If you or someone you know needs urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline (5 to 25 years) on 1800 55 1800.