Commentary from Suicide Prevention Australia's Annual Conference

Superfriend's CEO Darren Black, Chief Mental Health Officer Dr. Natalie Flatt Ph.D and Chief Research Officer and Associate Professor Ross Iles reflect on their experience at the annual Suicide prevention Australia conference.

Question: Darren, Natalie and Ross - tell us about your recent experience attending the annual Suicide Prevention Australia conference.

Darren: For background, the Suicide Prevention Sector employs 140,000 people nationally. It is a high-risk workforce with high exposure to vicarious trauma, psychological distress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. The people who work in this sector are front line support workers, researchers and many bringing their lived experience to demanding work, yet there is no sector data that paints a clear picture of the psychological hazards, protection factors to provide evidence to inform strategies to protect the workforce.

Darren: At the Conference, a collective of eight sector CEOs including Lifeline, RuOK, Headspace, Mates in Construction, Standby, SuperFriend, and Wesley Mission gathered to speak for the first time about the psychological safety of the workforce.

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Natalie: Additionally, engaging with fellow researchers like AIHW provided an opportunity to witness collaborative efforts with institutes and universities to create greater synergy and networking for strategic initiatives and future endeavours.

Darren: We were able to deliver a workshop (styled on our Think Tanks) to gain qualitative feedback from the sector.  We had 63 participants (a sobering fact was that 25 of the 63 participants (40%) had lost a friend or work colleague to suicide).  The participants were very engaged in a discussion about three psychosocial hazards that impact their workforce – Workload, Traumatic Events and Management Support.  Feedback from the workshop was excellent and we will use this alongside the views of the eight CEOs to develop an initial insight report for the Suicide Prevention Sector.

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Ross: The audience for the sessions was very engaged and eager to talk about the psychosocial hazards impacting them in their everyday roles. We heard both ends of the spectrum – leaders and their thoughts on how to address psych hazards, but also the frontline staff and how they are thinking and feeling about how their work impacts them. We collected a large amount of data, almost six hours of recorded conversations. We tried to allow everyone to join in on the conversation, either through recording the chat or having one person in a chat group noting down their thoughts in an online survey. Some participants got so much out of the session they wanted to take the questions back to their colleagues to contribute and add to the conversation afterwards. We will collate and summarise the key elements of the conversations we had to be the starting point of building the evidence based that it specific to psych hazards for the suicide prevention sector. Watch this space for the summary report, coming soon!

Natalie: The Think Tank uncovered valuable anecdotal insights by bridging the perspectives of CEOs and frontline workers, equipping Superfriend and Suicide Prevention Australia with qualitative data to advocate for prioritising psycho-social protective factors within the sector. This insight has created some further content ideas around ‘leader and employee disparity.’

Darren: This was very good opportunity for SuperFriend to contribute at a strategic level to the conversation about the psychological safety and wellbeing of a high risk sector and to demonstrate our capability to produce meaningful insights that will help sector leaders improve health and wellbeing practise to safeguard their people.

Natalie: I agree Darren! This collaborative environment not only showcased meaningful initiatives and interventions but also emphasised the importance of creating networks and synergies to advance strategies and impact for the sector's future.

Interested in finding out more about our Think Tank services? Discover more here.

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