Could this be Australia's greatest weapon against suicide?

A NEW suicide prevention program aimed at cutting the self-harm death toll by 20% will be rolled out in NSW before going national.

Lifespan uses an "evidence-based systems approach" that combines mental health care,  education programs for frontline workers like emergency staff, teachers and general practitioners; minimising access to "lethal means"; and encouraging safe conversations about suicide in schools, workplaces and communities.

Lifespan was developed in partnership with researchers, clinicians, community organisations, indigenous health groups and people with "lived experience of suicide and mental illness".

Billed as the country's largest suicide prevention program, it is expected to reduce deaths by 20% and suicide attempts by 30%.

Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15 to 44 years old.

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows more than 2800 Australians died by suicide and around 65,000 made an attempt in 2014.

The program will be rolled out in NSW first.

But Victoria will also get it soon and it's likely to spread across the nation after it was adopted by the Commonwealth Department of Health for use by primary health networks.

Black Dog Institute director professor Helen Christensen said Lifespan would reduce deaths and improve the lives of those living with suicidal thoughts and mental illness.

"The key to this program, and what makes it different to anything tried before, is the intensity of the interventions," she said.

"This is the first time we are implementing specially tailored and evidence-based strategies at the same time within local communities.

Importantly, we have incorporated the knowledge of people who have experience of suicidal thoughts in themselves or a loved one."

Prof Christensen said there had been overseas interest in Lifespan.

"The strength of the Lifespan model is that it can be tailored and employed in any community and for this reason we have received considerable international interest in this approach, particularly from our colleagues in the US and Canada," she said.

# If you need support please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. 


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