We're doing well. We can do better.
The following is the second installment of ‘Open Source Thinking’ - Where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on how I think we could pursue a suicide-free society. I might be wrong, I’m most likely misguided, but I need to start the conversation, and if you’ve got something to say, I need you to continue it.
Since 1907, the suicide rate in Australia has fallen from 16.9 deaths to 12.1 per 100,000. These figures represent a more accepting mental health society, however, since 2006 we have seen a 20% increase in the suicide rate (AIHW 2020). This increase is occurring amidst rising mental health awareness and government funding, suggesting that we are either underestimating the problem, underperforming with our current solutions, or a combination of both. In my opinion, suicide is a symptom of a mentally unhealthy society, so the following idea will be presented through a mental health lens.
Mental Health costs the Australian Economy $60bn a year, yet it is allocated $11bn in funding. Furthermore, Mental Health costs the Australian people irreparable heartache, yet we persist with inefficiencies that facilitate it. There are no easy answers here, and despite there appearing to be a clear gap in funding, R4R is not in the business of advocacy, so I think it’s more useful to look at how we might be underperforming with our current solutions.
When someone seeks professional help, it can be months before they see a shrink, which is completely unaligned with the sense of urgency that prompts someone to seek help. They are required to see a GP first, create a Mental Health Plan, and then book into a Psychologist. If someone were to bypass the GP and Mental Health Plan step, you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t have bottom dollars to spend afterward… because it’s so bloody expensive! So, when we look at the problem outlined above; lengthy wait times and expensive services; is the solution increasing sector capacity and improving efficiency?
This isn’t a rhetorical question… please subscribe and/or leave a comment below.
I have a good mate who is a personal trainer, and several years back we were talking about how he could maximise his revenue. The reality facing personal trainers is that they only have a finite number of hours per week and it is difficult to scale their work. In that conversation, he told me that he would identify clients of similar ability and offer them a cheaper rate if they’d accept being in a two-person personal training session. The content would be the same because the clients would be of a similar ability, the price would be less per person, and there would be an added sense of value due to a joint pursuit of a common goal. The difference for my mate is that whilst each person was paying less; together, they were paying more, and my mate now had one extra hour to get a new client.
Why can’t we do this for psychologists?
Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) is where our trauma can be used to grow as a person. PTG can come from using our trauma to help others, and if psychologists are able to identify similar clients and combine their sessions, these clients can help each other, whilst continuing to be helped by the psychologist. This would increase the number of free hours for new bookings and it would increase the dollars received per hour of operation for the psychologist. The latter would either incentivise the psychologist to organise more group sessions (increasing capacity further) and/or it would provide additional money to provide discounts for those who are unable to afford the sessions.
There’s a key assumption here; that group psychology sessions would be beneficial to the client. I believe it is based on all I’ve read, and I’ve seen it firsthand within the R4R community. But I’m not naïve to my lack of professional experience and I’m strongly encouraging anyone with that experience to contribute to this discussion.
There’s another half-baked thought simmering away here too… Can the presence of ‘group psychology’ sessions infer to the general public that sharing struggles with our peers is an acceptable thing to do? Wouldn’t we be sharpening the toolset of being able to communicate our pain to others? Wouldn’t the creation of a group of people with similar circumstances be beneficial?
I can’t help but think this is in the best interest of our psychologists, from an ethical and economic point of view. And as far as I can tell, I can’t help but think it’s in the best interest of the people seeking professional help. But again, I’m just an ideas man… is this already being done? Is there a reason it isn’t being done? What do you think about this?
Just. Keep. Moving.
As a bereaved father, losing our son Aaron to suicide , I am so impressred with your blog#2. I guess I need to explain where I'm coming from. Last Tuesday I was advised I have been appointed one of 14 members of a newly formed Lived Experience Partnership Group , pare of the newly formed National Suicide Prevention Office. the reasson fo advising , is ; I am passionate about bringing innovation to the table , asnd the article outlining PTG is brilliant. I do wish to, as soon as possible , bring this to the table . If you wish to contact me on the matter , broadening the scope of this "Why cant we?", please call me on 0417253046 . I also wish to thank you for the well set out preamble about suicide rates economic and wellbeing costs . I note R4R is not in the business of advocacy . but if this is just one example of your contribution to consider change , i will do all i can to advocate on those matters. I wouls greatly appreaciate any contributions , not limited to a blog. I used to be a runner , marathons, 1/2's and the odd City to Surf, but at 72, my knees are shot. Sincerest thanks . Ken
The groups idea could also help remove the stigma around mental health as well, as in it’s ok to talk to someone else about the issues than just exclusively with a professional. You’d get varied experiences and possible solutions as well? I know when I facilitated workshops the best answers to questions would come from other participants, genuine lived experiences and helping people connect. Was so great to see.