New research foundation to combat youth suicide

The University of Western Australia has launched a new foundation to research the best ways to identify trigger points for youth suicide and young people at risk.

The Young Lives Matter Foundation will bring together medical professionals, mathematicians and data analysts to identify trends in youth suicide behaviour.

UWA Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater said advances in modelling, analytics and mental health research would enable the project to create a global risk index to aid in predicting the risk of suicidal behaviour.

“Through this initiative and the appointment of world-leading experts in mental health and allied fields, we can provide insight and greater understanding of youth suicide to support our young people,” Prof Freshwater said.

Part of the data for the research project will come from the State Coronial Database for youth suicide cases.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds globally, with almost 800,000 people taking their life every year.

Curtin University human rights director Baden Offord said many issues caused young people be at a high risk of suicide.

“This group often experience vulnerability through, for example, family dysfunction, peer pressure at school, being isolated socially or culturally, going through gender identity or sexual orientation or intersex status questioning, or coming from an Indigenous background,” Dr Offord said.

Curtin Sarawak Pro Vice-Chancellor, President & Chief Executive Jim Mienczakowski said there was a danger of influence from the suicide of peers and the normalisation of suicide as a response to feelings of isolation or depression.

“Literature, media, particularly social media, often almost popularise suicide – sometimes in a romantic fashion,” Dr Mienczakowski said.

Although research about suicide prevention has been conducted previously, much less research has been undertaken to identify those at high risk and the trigger warnings.

“Research has shown that suicides can occur in ‘clusters’, that is, discussion about or an actual suicide can trigger others to also think that suicide is an answer for them,” Dr Mienczakowski said.

“It will be important to place this medically based and statistical research alongside the equally significant and crucial research being done in the field of the lived experience of suicide, where substantial progress is being made in terms of changing lives and making a difference to vulnerable people.”

The foundation has already received initial capital and is now looking to secure further funding to progress the project.