Text message trial begins in bid to save lives

texting trial
The texting trial will commence at Westmead Hospital.

Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies has announced the landmark trial of an SMS SOS suicide prevention project for hospital emergency departments will begin this month.

The trial will begin at Westmead Hospital, with Nepean and Blacktown Hospitals to follow.

Text messages with words of support, and information on where to get help if needed, will be sent to patients to complement existing care and treatment programs in the months after their discharge from hospital.

“Every day about six Australians die by suicide and a further 175 attempt suicide – in NSW, two people on average each day lose their life to suicide,” Mrs Davies said.

“For many who attempt suicide, a visit to the emergency department is an important door to much needed mental health care, this is why we must continue to develop new ways to reduce the rate of self-harm.”

In association with NSW Health, researchers from Western Sydney University, the University of Sydney and Newcastle University, will oversee the study.

Manish Anand, Senior Staff Specialist in Psychiatry at Westmead Hospital, said the SMS SOS Project will build on existing post-hospital care where staff work with the person, their family, carers and other services to provide coordinated support.

“At Westmead’s emergency department we see six to eight people each day following suicide attempts or a self-harm episode. This trial will see some of these people receive SMS messages every one to two months for one year, following their discharge from hospital,” Dr Anand said.

“We are looking forward to closely monitoring how people respond, if it ensures a safer transition home, and if re-presentations for self-harm are reduced.”

Today’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme is ‘Take a minute, change a life.’

“Suicide has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, and we hope this trial will improve existing support for people when they need it the most,” Mrs Davies said.

For further information on World Suicide Prevention Day events go to www.wspd.org.au . If you or someone you know needs help call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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