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beyondblue Australian-first smartphone app to help reduce suicide deaths

15 March 2016

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The number of Australian men taking their lives is increasing, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics data, and beyondblue hopes its new BeyondNow app will help reduce the suicide toll.

2,160 Australian men died by suicide in 2014. In 2013, 1885 men took their lives. This means the suicide rate among men has risen to 18.4 per 100,000 deaths.

Overall, 2864 Australian lives were lost to suicide in 2014, compared to 2522 in 2013.

This is an increase of almost one life a day compared to 2013: 7.8 deaths a day in 2014, 6.9 deaths a day in 2013.

Among Australia men, those aged 85 and older are most likely to take their lives (37.6 per 100,000) followed by 40 to 44-year-olds (29.9/100,000) and 50-54-year-olds (29.2/100,000).

beyondblue Chairman The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC said in order to reduce Australia’s tragic suicide death toll, which is more than double than the road toll, beyondblue and Monash University, with funding from the Movember Foundation, have developed an world-leading smartphone app and website to help save lives when people feel hopeless and helpless, and want to die.

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“The free BeyondNow app, which can be downloaded onto a smartphone, shows people how to create a plan to refer to when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in a suicidal crisis,” Mr Kennett said.

“A practical suicide prevention tool like this has been needed for a long time. We know that having access to a safety plan in crisis situations can save lives. Now, we’ve used technology to convert written suicide safety plans, which have been used successfully with American service veterans, into a free app.

“I hope that men, in particular, will work with their GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and carers to personalise the safety plan on the BeyondNow app and refer to it when they feel at risk of harming themselves.”

It is estimated 76,000 people attempt suicide each year in Australia. Research shows 15 to 20 per cent of those who try once will try again. The first three months after an attempt is regarded as the highest risk period.

Paul Villanti, Executive Director of the Movember Foundation said the Foundation is committed to finding innovative solutions to improve the health outcomes of men, such as the BeyondNow app.

“We are proud to have funded and been involved in the development of the world-leading suicide prevention tool.

“We know men are reluctant to ask for help when they need it and those aged 18 to 45 years are among the hardest to reach,” said Mr Villanti.

“The BeyondNow app will overcome some of the problems in reaching this group in times of crisis and allow them to develop a list of warning signs, coping strategies, reasons for living and ways to make their environment safe,” he added.

Dr Glenn Melvin, Senior Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist at Monash University’s Centre for Developmental Psychiatry & Psychology was central to developing the app’s safety plan format.

“The safety planning app documents a series of steps that people can use to keep themselves safe when they have suicidal thoughts,” Dr Melvin said.

“It starts with things they can do themselves, then moves onto other people they can contact for support. All this information is with them constantly on their phone and they can access it privately.”

The free BeyondNow App can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play store.

Find out more about creating a safety plan at beyondblue.org.au/beyond-now.

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