LifeSpan Newcastle

What is LifeSpan?

LifeSpan is a new evidence-based model for integrated, regional suicide prevention in Australia, involving the simultaneous implementation of nine key strategies to reduce suicide. 

LifeSpan aims to support people to live full and contributing lives by bringing together healthcare, community services, and those with lived experience within a region, to work collaboratively to implement the multiple strategies within their community. 

Strong evidence points to the benefits of combining effective strategies into an integrated approach to suicide prevention. The three key components of LifeSpan include: nine evidence-based strategies, targeting population to individual-level risk simultaneous implementation of all nine strategies in selected regions  governance at a local level (integration of non-government organisations (NGOs), primary health care networks, local health districts, education, police and community groups to coordinate action).  

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Who to Contact

Katie McGill

Context and Background

The Newcastle LGA is one of four sites for the delivery of LifeSpan - Australia’s largest integrated suicide prevention program, which is expected to reduce suicides deaths by 20% and suicide attempts by 30%.  

In 2014, over 2800 Australians died by suicide and around 65,000 made an attempt. Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15-44yrs and rates appear to be increasing.   A new approach to suicide prevention, developed by researchers at Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP), will be rolled out in four locations across NSW.   Called Lifespan, this evidence-based “systems approach” involves the simultaneous implementation of nine strategies proven to reduce suicide. It was developed in partnership with researchers, clinicians, community organisations, Indigenous health groups and people with lived experience of suicide and mental illness.   Lifespan will be implemented across four NSW regions – Newcastle, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Gosford/Wyong and the Murrumbidgee. Implementation will be staged, with one site started every 4 months to enable accurate measurements of effectiveness and impact. While these early stages of Lifespan are limited to NSW for reasons of funding, there are plans to introduce elsewhere in Australia.   Lifespan is being implemented in partnership with the NSW Department of Health, Commonwealth Primary Health Networks, NSW Mental Health Commission, NSW Department of Education and local community organisations. Lifespan has been supported by a generous $14.7 million grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.  

The key to this program, and what makes it different to anything tried before, is the intensity of the interventions – specially tailored and evidence-based strategies introduced at the same time within local communities. Importantly, the program incorporates the knowledge of people who have experience of suicidal thoughts in themselves or a loved one.    

Newcastle is the first in this Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) ‘stepped-wedge’ design. (A stepped wedge design involves each site starting sequentially with a gap of three months between each site.) The start order of the sites was randomised as follows:

Site 1. Newcastle – underway
Site 2. Illawarra Shoalhaven - Underway 
Site 3. Central Coast – commencing May 2017 
Site 4. Murrumbidgee - commencing September 2017