Research projects

A follow-up study of Indigenous suicide attempts and care in the Northern Territory

Principal researchers

Professor Gary Robinson


Menzies School of Health Research



Award type

beyondblue National Priority Driven Research Program

Project completion year


Project brief

This project combined the results of a retrospective follow-up study using confidential data linkage with a collaborative framework for research translation and capacity enhancing activities to develop and maximise the impact of the findings from this project.

The collection of data, interpretation of the results of analysis and conclusions drawn from this study were developed closely with the partners in the study Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs, Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin and Palmerston and the Mental Health and the Remote Health Branches of the NT Department of Health. All NT residents with a hospital admission that included a diagnosis of suicidal ideation or intentional self-harm between 2001 and 2013, inclusive, were recruited into the study. Survival analysis was used to identify the characteristics and factors that placed individuals in our study cohort at higher risk of suicidal ideation, intentional self-harm and suicide following the initial hospitalisation involving suicidal behaviour.

A total of 4,495 individuals were admitted to a public hospital in the NT between 2001 and 2013 with a diagnosis of suicidal ideation, intentional self-harm or both. The rate of hospitalisations involving suicidal behaviour for NT residents has significantly increased every year since 2000, especially for the Indigenous population.

The risk of subsequent suicidal behaviour is increased for the first 6 to 12 months following initial hospitalisation. The risk of suicide remained elevated for approximately 24 months following a hospitalisation involving suicidal behaviour. The Indigenous cohort was found to be consistently at higher risk of subsequent suicidal ideation, intentional self-harm and suicide following a hospitalisation involving suicidal behaviour.

The findings suggest the need for assertive follow-up that involves comprehensive assessment of proximal risk factors in the first 6 to 12 months following hospitalisation involving suicidal behaviour. Monitoring and ongoing support for at-risk individuals is recommended for at least 2 years following hospitalisation for intentional self-harm.

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