IASP President Professor Rory O’Connor’s Presidential Message

Since assuming my role as President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) at the beginning of this year, I have been impressed by all of the hard work that takes place behind the scenes on our behalf by the Central Administration Office (CAO) team. With this in mind, it is my pleasure to share with you the newly revamped and rebranded IASP website, developed by the CAO team to assist our members in accessing key information relating to suicide prevention and to connect with peers in the field.

Professor Rory O'Connor
Creating Hope Through Action

Progress has been achieved elsewhere too, including the adoption of a new triennial theme for World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on 10 September. The new theme is ‘Creating Hope through Action’ and we believe that it will help us to instil light in those who have been touched by the darkness of suicide and self-harm. It also aims to inspire confidence in all of us, such that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. The concept behind the theme is heavily rooted in the need to emphasise that it is possible to overcome feelings of hopelessness, that it is possible not only to survive but also to thrive in life. We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide.

The collaborative effort of our incredible members, including those with lived experience of suicide, researchers, clinicians, policy planners and volunteers can strengthen the impact of this call to action. By creating hope through action such as providing a listening ear, signposting people to support services and sharing effective tools and resources to help cope, we can offer a solution other than suicide for those who can see no other alternative in a time of despair. By offering a glimmer of hope, we can and will save lives.

Less than two weeks after WSPD this year, the 31st IASP World Congress will be held on the Gold Coast, Australia from 21-24 September, in partnership with the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University and the charity Movember. Celebrating the return of the event to Australia for the first time since 1997, some wonderful artwork has been incorporated into the congress logo, exquisitely designed by a member of the First Nations’ community, Alara Geebung (Cameron), and symbolising the uniqueness of Australia’s native land. Harnessing the powers of 21st century technology, we have been able to overcome the logistical challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to bring our members the first fully hybrid IASP global congress. Given all of the uncertainties around the pandemic, this ensures that we still have the opportunity to engage, interact and share our research, policy and practice both virtually, as well as in-person. With the deadline for oral presentation abstracts fast approaching on 30 April, please don’t miss out on the chance to share your important work on a global platform.

We are also delighted to be partners in hosting the Triple i Virtual Conference, together with the Slovene Centre for Suicide Research and the De Leo Fund Onlus. This event, which I have had the pleasure to attend in the past, will take place from 25-27 May 2021. The conference will involve two sessions per day, across the three days of the event. The programme includes a wide range of topics spanning both clinical work and research within the area of suicide prevention and features presentations from each of the IASP Executive Committee members. Professionals, students, scholars and practitioners from all over the world are invited to join the conference and you can register here.

While the global pandemic continues to affect all of our lives, the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration remains committed to enhancing good quality collaborative research on monitoring and preventing suicide and suicidal behaviours. Indeed, particular thanks to Jane Pirkis and Ann John who led the most detailed study of the early effects of the pandemic on suicide rates in 21 countries globally. This international collaboration was published in Lancet Psychiatry recently, and although the findings were reassuring, it is vital that we remain vigilant as the longer term consequences of the pandemic take effect. Should you have any interest in joining the Research Collaboration, I encourage you to contact the CAO team.

As we continue to focus on our vision of a world where fewer people lose their lives to suicide, I look forward to working with you over the next 4 years as we strive to achieve this goal.

Professor Rory O’Connor

President, IASP