Better Off With You is an innovative, evidence-informed suicide prevention campaign pilot, delivered by SANE Australia in partnership with two Primary Health Networks (PHNs) – Northern Sydney PHN and Northern Queensland PHN. The pilot initiative includes a research component to ensure the campaign’s safety, measure impact and to inform future national suicide prevention activities. The project commenced in October 2018 and concluded in May 2020, with a six-week public campaign wave taking place in January and February 2020.
Better Off With You draws on the power of peer-to-peer storytelling – sharing the experiences of individuals who have had suicidal thoughts and survived suicide attempts, to reach people in the community who are contemplating suicide. As many as 500,000 Australians have attempted suicide at some point in their lives and sharing their experiences can help others who are feeling suicidal. The campaign seeks to challenge the perceptions of those who are contemplating suicide that they are a burden on their family, friends and other people. This campaign concept draws on Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicide, which identifies ‘perceived burdensomeness’ as a key belief in individuals who are having suicidal thoughts.
PHNs have a key role in the implementation of community-focused approaches to suicide prevention in their regions. The two PHN partners selected targeted areas within their regions to undertake the campaign pilot - the Northern Beaches in Sydney, New South Wales; and the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac area in Northern Queensland. These locations were selected as areas of need due to high rates of suicide, and also chosen based on their community readiness (including having established local suicide prevention action planning groups and coordination within their local services to respond to people during suicidal crisis). The campaign pilot has been developed with strong engagement and consultation with local task forces, services, community groups and other organisations. The Better Off With You pilot contributes to strategy five of the Black Dog Institute’s LifeSpan framework for community-based suicide prevention planning, Engaging the Community, and is articulated as a key activity in the local actions plans within the two target areas.
The two PHN partners identified target groups within their communities, focusing on those with higher rates of suicidal risk, based on local data. Aligned with these target groups, local people with a personal experience of suicide (including feelings of being a burden on others) were engaged and supported by SANE Australia as storytellers for the campaign. SANE Australia and PHN partners acknowledge that this pilot campaign does not include any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories and recognise the importance of sharing these stories in suicide prevention initiatives. However, due to the short timelines for development and consultation, we were unable to include these stories in the first pilot in a culturally appropriate way. Increasing the number and diversity of stories in the campaign, including those from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds and sexual and gender identities, will be recommended for future initiatives.
The Research and Evaluation
The Better Off With You campaign pilot’s iterative design and delivery is informed by research activities including focus groups and user testing undertaken within the two targeted communities. The evaluation study of the campaign pilot investigates the safety, feasibility, and initial effectiveness of an integrated multichannel suicide prevention campaign which uses first person peer-to-peer storytelling to reduce perceived burdensomeness.
A Practical Guide to Running an Online Suicide Prevention Campaign
SANE Australia has compiled a practical guide for community organisations and others considering running an online suicide prevention campaign, based on the key learnings from the Better Off With You campaign pilot. This guide includes practical information about designing and delivering targeted suicide prevention campaigns within communities, including insights from the research and evaluation of the Better Off With You campaign pilot and guidance to ensure safety and support of people with lived experience of suicidality in research and storytelling.
Our article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research – Formative Research shows how important insights from people with lived experience were in informing the development of Better Off With You. Understanding the needs and preferences of people with lived experience of suicidal thoughts and actions was critical to making this award-winning campaign engaging, safe and meaningful. Find out more about the focus groups and user testing sessions we carried out as part of the research that shaped Better Off With You in the article.
Suicide Prevention within the Targeted Communities
Information about local suicide prevention activities and stakeholder packs with guidance on how to share the Better Off With You campaign locally.
Suicide Prevention on the Northern Beaches, Sydney NSW
The Northern Beaches Suicide Response Steering Group has been established to address concerns in the community about suicide and help ensure its prevention. For more information on the Northern Beaches Suicide Response Action Plan, local mental health services, volunteer opportunities and suicide awareness and prevention training courses available on the Northern Beaches, click here.
Suicide Prevention in the Whitsunday, Isaac and Mackay region, QLD
The Whitsunday, Isaac and Mackay Suicide Prevention Community Action Planning Group is responsible for the development and implementation of a suicide prevention plan for the region. For further information on the Community Action Plan and ways to get involved in suicide prevention locally, click here.
If you are not located within one of the two communities a part of the Better Off With You campaign pilot, see here for information on ways to support your community and play a part in suicide prevention.
Enquiries regarding the Better Off With You initiative can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
SANE Australia Better Off With You Project Team:
- Project Sponsor/CEO: Jack Heath
- Project Lead: Bonnie Vincent
- Research Lead: Dr Marianne Webb
- Project Team: Natalie Rutstein, Claire Dicarlo, Elise Carrotte, Karen Fletcher, Anna Flego, Dr Michelle Blanchard and Ben Lee-Bates
SANE Australia acknowledges the contribution of Life in Mind and Beyond Blue to the resources provided on this website and the contribution of experts consulted in the development of the initiative from national organisations including Orygen, Roses in the Ocean, the Black Dog Institute and Lifeline Australia.
Watch these real stories
Watch stories from people who have lived through suicidal thoughts and attempts and learn how they came to see life differently.