Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

AIMHS: A 'Situational Approach' to Suicide Prevention

situational appr logo The situational approach to suicide prevention acknowledges the predominant association of situational distress rather than mental illness, with suicide (though in some cases the two are linked), and is principally informed by and responds to risk factors of a broad spectrum of difficult human experiences across the life span.

"Given that unemployment is strongly associated with suicide, labour market reform and local intervention and innovation measures, need to be a crucial consideration and activity of State and local government and corporate enterprise..."

Suicide is a significant and hugely costly public health issue that recognises the potentially greater impact of a whole of population approach, instead of an individual problem oriented and reductionist approach focused on treating people with serious mental health problems.

Effective suicide prevention depends on knowing about the factors that put people at risk. An example of an event that may cause situational distress is unemployment. There is a strong established link between suicide and unemployment.

A global longitudinal analysis covering 63 countries found that the relative risk of suicide associated with employment was elevated by about 20-30% during the study period. Other research has shown that greater spending on labour market programs and levels of social capital appeared to mitigate suicide risk.

Key Points of the Situational Approach to Suicide Prevention:

  • Focusing on an 'upstream' perspective; which is one that focuses on risk and protective factors rather than a 'downstream' perspective e.g. crises and their aftermath.
  • Improvement of the gathering and cross-referencing of the suicide mortality and risk factor data for suicide prevention efforts so that initiatives are tailored, targeted and cost effective.
  • Adopting the new situational approach to suicide prevention, and applying it to suicide prevention policy, planning and initiatives may not only address the urgent need for a more effective response to suicide, but may also suggest precedents of reform for the wider mental health system.


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