Parenting program for suicide prevention

27 September 2019

A national online program is being developed by The Australian National University (ANU) to help support parents who have children that are suicidal or suffering high levels of psychological distress.

It comes as data shows one in four females in Australia aged 15 to 17 are reporting high levels psychological distress and one in three in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

ANU researcher, Dr Alison Calear, is creating the parenting project in an effort to reduce the rates of suicide in young people.

"Our research suggests parents do not feel they have the knowledge or skills to identify young people at risk of psychological distress or suicide," said Dr Calear.

"If they do recognise a risk, they don't know what to do, where to seek help or how to seek help."

Dr Calear has been awarded $1.2 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to fund research into the drivers for suicidal behaviour.

The parenting program is the first of a series of suicide prevention projects that will provide knowledge and skills in how to recognise mental health problems and highlight when support may be required.

In a report for the ACT Office for Women, Dr Calear found some parents felt the need for more support during the school years.

"Parents told us they were supported through the early years from ages zero to five but they were left expecting to know what to do once school starts," said Dr Calear.

"There is this assumption that parenting gets easier but the reality is parents felt they were as lost as a child grows up as they were with a child under five."

However some parents reported staying in touch with a group of other parents could have benefits in later years.

"We found parents who still interacted with their mothers' group felt more supported than those who did not keep in touch," said Dr Calear

"Because they had been with that group from the beginning, they felt they could have more honest conversations with them than they could with others. They had less worries about judgement and stigma."

The program will be developed in consultation with community groups and researchers will soon be calling for parents, community members and teens in the ACT to be involved.