Funding supports projects in suicide prevention and mental health in community sports

Funding supports projects in suicide prevention and mental health in community sports

19 November 2020

Orygen researchers have received funding from the Australian Research Council to progress projects aimed at improving the safety and quality of online communication about suicide by young people, and promoting the mental health and wellbeing of young people involved in community sports.

Orygen’s head of suicide prevention research, Associate Professor Jo Robinson, received $452,898 to undertake research aimed at helping young people communicate safely online about suicide safely, in order to minimise distress and reduce risk to themselves and others. Associate Professor Robinson said the funding was welcome during a time when young people were increasingly using social media and digital technologies.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians and rates continue to rise,” she said. “One common explanation for this is the way in which young people use social media to communicate about suicide.

“This project will directly address this by testing the impact of the #chatsafe guidelines and campaign materials that target young people’s capacity to communicate safely on social media about suicide.

Developed by Orygen in 2018, the #chatsafe project includes the world’s first set of evidence-informed tools and tips designed to directly support young people to communicate safely on social media about suicide.

Associate Professor Robinson said the study also had national and international significance for the social media industry and the safe governance of their platforms.

Orygen’s Associate Professor Simon Rice will collaborate with a team of researchers led by Dr Stewart Vella from the University of Wollongong which received $357,409 to support the development of a set of national guidelines aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing in community sporting clubs.

“Sport plays a central role in Australian culture, and this is reflected in the fact that a majority of young people participate in organised sport,” Associate Professor Rice said.

“Participation in sport can have direct benefits for physical and mental health by encouraging regular exercise. Community sporting clubs, associations and leagues also have the potential to provide indirect benefits toward mental health via the social support and resources they offer to their members.

Associate Professor Rice said, due to the large number of young Australians participating in community sports, it was critical to look at how to support community sporting clubs in creating environments that are psychologically safe for those participating.

“To date there have been no guidelines on how to promote psychological safety and mental health wellbeing in community sports,” he said. “This research will look at delivering the knowledge to develop and implement these guidelines.”