Victorian emergency departments to acquire critical self-harm monitoring system

Victorian emergency departments to acquire critical self-harm monitoring system

21 January 2021

Victoria will be the first state in Australia to benefit from a new self-harm monitoring system designed to provide up to date data on all self-harm presentations to participating emergency departments.

Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the self-harm monitoring system is being developed by researchers at Orygen, and will provide critical information on who is presenting with self-harm, their methods of self-harm used and the treatment they received.

Associate Professor Jo Robinson who heads Orygen’s suicide prevention research is the project lead and said, unfortunately, rates of suicide are still increasing among Australia’s young people.

“Self-harm also appears to be increasing and is a key indicator of future suicide risk as well as being associated with other adverse outcomes.

“Many young people who engage in self-harm don’t seek professional help, but when they do, emergency departments are often a first port of call, and many young people report substandard responses from staff when they present there.”

Associate Professor Robinson said the period following discharge also represents a time of elevated suicide risk.

“We need to look at what is happening in emergency departments when a young person presents due to self-harm. To date, there is limited high quality data that exist on rates of presentation to emergency departments for self-harm and how it is treated,” she said.

The self-harm monitoring system will use an automated method to collect data that includes the use of machine learning and information collected when a young person presents to triage.

“Once fully operational, the system will provide accurate and timely information on all self-harm presentations to participating emergency departments for self-harm, which will further provide a useful indicator for Australia’s suicide prevention efforts,” Associate Professor Robinson said.

“It will have the capacity to both inform and evaluate future clinical practice and policy development in Victoria.

“Because the data will be collected over a long period of time, it will also be a key mechanism through which policy initiatives such as the development of aftercare services, and the recommendations from the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health can be evaluated,” Associate Professor Robinson said.  

“These types of self-harm monitoring systems have been developed elsewhere in the world but this is the first of its kind in Australia, bringing us in line with international best practice.

“Ultimately, we hope it will lead to far better outcomes for young people who self-harm,” Associate Professor Robinson said.

 This research is supported by funding from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, The William Buckland Foundation, and Future Generations Global.