The IASP Australasian Research Workshop 2023, kindly sponsored by Orygen, was held from 8 to 9 February at Orygen Parkville, Australia. The event aimed to develop collaboration among experts, industry leaders, and early career researchers (ECRs). Featuring guest speaker Dr Mark Sinyor, the workshop also aimed to discuss the challenges faced in suicide prevention and encourage conversations around the topic. The two-day event saw the participation of 63 participants working in different sectors of suicide prevention, including academics, clinicians, helpline service providers, and early career researchers.
The first day started with coffee and networking among the participants at Orygen. After the welcome to country, Dr Jo Robinson, Vice President of IASP and Associate Professor at Orygen welcomed the participants and reminded everyone of the importance of working in suicide prevention and research. This was followed by a keynote from Dr Mark Sinyor, psychiatrist and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. As Dr Sinyor’s research focuses on population-level suicide prevention strategies with a focus on how media impacts suicidal behaviour, his keynote reflected that. His presentation “Engaging media to improve suicide-related discourse in Canada” highlighted the significant role played by public messaging and media narrative in suicidal behaviour. In his keynote, Dr Sinyor also gave some pertinent advice to early career researchers to excel in their careers. He concluded by emphasizing the need for researchers to engage with the media and content creators because the overarching narrative of public discourse matters a lot in suicide prevention.
The keynote was followed by the first session of lightning presentations where eight ECRs gave their presentation on different areas of suicide and suicide prevention, such as suicide bereavement, suicide in men, and youth and adolescent mental health. Then the next guest speaker of the workshop Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin talked about the hardships faced by early career researchers in suicide prevention research, such as anxiety, loss, and uncertainty, along with challenges posed by the pandemic. She also gave some tips for early career researchers to cope with the challenges, such as self-compassion and understanding and validating their thoughts and feelings. This talk was well-liked by the participants and organizers as it contained some practical tips to practice self-care and be kind to oneself. Another important part of the workshop was the “Career planning-based discussion” panel, where the panelists shared their journey as researchers in suicide prevention. They discussed mentorship experiences, setting boundaries, time management, connections, and other topics relevant to ECRs in the field. In the last session of the day, guest speakers Alison Calear and Dr. Michelle Tye presented the rising rates of self-harm in young people.
On the second day of the workshop, Dr Jo Robinson gave a presentation on the #chatsafe initiative that provides evidence-based guidelines to young people on communicating safely online about suicide and self-harm. She shared the journey of the program so far and highlighted the need to include young people and social media as a part of the solution for suicide prevention. The second session of lightning presentations by ECRs focused on topics such as youth mental health, suicide prevention interventions, mental images of suicide, and helpline theory. Next, guest speaker, Dr Sarah Hetrick talked about adapting the chatsafe guidelines in New Zealand to make them relevant, culturally responsive, and appropriate for bicultural youth. The inclusion of key stakeholders was
mentioned as an important factor by Dr Hetrick to ensure meaningful engagement and impact. The guideline adaptation process would ensure that the study is guided by Māori clinical, cultural, and youth governance groups and ensure appropriate Māori representation throughout the process.
The final set of lightning presentations in the afternoon session highlighted different perspectives in suicide prevention research, such as co-design, lived experience, suicide among migrants, grey literature search, etc. The final session was a panel discussion chaired by Professor Jane Pirkis and Nicole T.M. Hill, with panel members Dr Kylie King, Dr Zac Seidler, Dr Mark Sinyor, and Professor Matthew Spittal. For this panel discussion, participants submitted questions beforehand through the event app, which are often not spoken about in academia to get to the bottom of the known unknowns. The panellists received some thought-provoking questions such as balancing parenting and academia, short-term contracts post-Ph.D., managing burnout, and the importance of including lived experience throughout the research process. After this, the winner of the ECR lightning presentations was announced. The presentations were judged by Dr Mark Sinyor and Professor Matthew Spittal based on scientific impact, content, and style of delivery. Katie McGill won for her presentation on the clinical audit of mental health assessments within the Hunter New England Mental Health Service and won full registration for the IASP 32nd World Congress which is going to be held in September in Piran, Slovenia. The workshop ended with Dr Jo Robinson giving a vote of thanks to the organizers and the participants for making it successful.
Overall, the workshop was a platform for early career researchers to learn from established researchers, network with them, and exchange ideas. “This workshop has been supportive. It was an opportunity for researchers in all stages of research to come together to share ideas and feedback. It has also been great to test out questions, challenges, and ideas and get global support”, said Linda Bowden, one of the ECRs attending the workshop.