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Making Health Better
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Operation COMPASS announces several key initiatives

The Federal Government is continuing to drive forward action on veteran suicide prevention, with ‘Operation COMPASS’ gaining significant momentum in Townsville.

The pilot suicide prevention trial in the North Queensland city, being delivered by Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN), targets ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their families.

The appointment of an ex-ADF Suicide Prevention Project Manager in May has helped drive forward a number of key recent initiatives, including:

Project now fully operational and named Operation COMPASS, with an action plan available for the public to view by Veterans’ Health Week in October.

Reference Groups formed, demonstrating significant interest from the ex-ADF community and the health sector.

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) gatekeeper training planned for next month – for the local community to learn more about suicide prevention.

  • Planned activities coinciding with R U OK? Day convoy being held in Townsville next month.
  • Partner in project being implemented by Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS); VVCS to recruit community and peer advisory with lived experience
  • Current VVCS project working with ex-ADF members in the Townsville Private Clinic to provide community support and care coordination in preparation for discharge
  • Collaboration with Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation and RSL Queensland Employment Transition on suicide risk assessment training
  • Mapping of service providers that are equipped to provide services to the ex-ADF community.
  • Planning under way for GP training in suicide awareness and specific ex-ADF needs.
  • Working in partnership with the Townsville Suicide Prevention Network, who recently launched their Community Action Plan for 2017-2020.

NQPHN Mental Health Director Gillian Yearsley said the project, headed by Lieutenant General John Caligari AO, DSC (retired) as Chair, is making significant progress in developing localised suicide prevention and mental health intervention plans.

“The project is gaining important traction in addressing the concerning statistics around veteran mental health issues,” Mrs Yearsley said.

“For example, the project’s Reference Groups have been divided into three very diverse groups, with all participants bringing their own level of interest and experience.

“It’s vital that we utilise existing skills and knowledge within the ex-ADF, mental health, and other healthcare and community sectors to find solutions which work.

“The project is identifying how best to get information on the project out to the community, including ex-ADF members and their families, working with local experts on the ground.

“This includes details on what the project aims to achieve, how it fits in with broader, joint Townsville suicide prevention activity, and how the community can become involved.

“We know the devastating impact that suicide has on North Queensland communities, individuals, families and carers, and we’re determined to work with local organisations to help prevent suicide and suicidal behaviour.

“We need to do better to support ADF personnel and their families while they serve, and when they transition to civilian life and beyond.”

This need for action came after data demonstrated that the suicide rate for ex-service personnel (men) is 13 per cent higher than the general population when based on age.

NQPHN’s 2016 Health Needs Assessment also highlighted that its region’s suicide rate is one-and-a-half times the national suicide rate.

The Turnbull Government announced the suicide prevention trial in Townsville last year as part of a $34 million commitment to fund and evaluate 12 suicide prevention trial sites nationally.

The Townsville trial, led by NQPHN, brings together the best evidence-based strategies and models to better target people at risk of suicide, and ensure a more integrated, regionally- based approach to suicide prevention.