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Once again, this quarter has been filled with exciting projects and activities at IASP. Indeed, at recent Board meetings, we’ve been delighted to hear how plans for our various conferences have been developing.
IASP’s Congresses and Conferences are a vital part of strengthening our knowledge and understanding in preventing suicide as well as an opportunity for us to meet, collaborate and share. We are pleased, therefore, to be able to expand our conference portfolio, in response to members’ interest, and host the first IASP Pan-American Conference in November 2024. We are also looking forward to hosting the 11th Asia Pacific Conference in Bangkok in May 2024.
Preparations for the World Congress in Piran are also in full swing. Registrations are open (the early bird registration closes on 30th June), the academic programme looks brilliant and there is also a packed social programme. If you are considering joining us in beautiful Piran, please take a look through the networking, social and well-being events being offered, which, we hope, will provide delegates with a fulfilling, rounded experience. I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting Piran previously for the Triple i conference – so I know that delegates are in for a treat, so, we are excited to welcome you to this picturesque town on the Slovenian coastline.
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is fast approaching and the central office team is working towards promoting even more resources and messaging around the theme of ‘Creating Hope Through Action’. This is the last year of this WSPD theme; we’ve been really pleased with how members and non-members alike have embraced it in the past two years. And we expect this year to be no different. Indeed, we have already started to see messages encouraging understanding, reaching in and sharing experiences around suicide and suicide prevention. I’d really like to encourage all of you to think about how you will mark September 10th this year. Please let us know what is happening in your region or country.
In wider news, at the end of May, the seventy-sixth World Health Assembly took place under the theme “Saving lives, driving health for all”. While IASP did not take part in the Assembly this year, we were encouraged to see member states agreeing to adopt a global framework on mental health. As well as taking positive steps toward addressing environmental determinants and continuing efforts in preventing suicide-related deaths from highly hazardous pesticides. We are equally heartened to hear that alongside Guyana, Ghana and others, Malaysia has recently decriminalised suicidal behaviour; this is another significant step forward in our global mission to prevent suicide.
In May, we also saw the publication in Lancet Psychiatry of the Gone Too Soon roadmap to prevent premature mortality associated with mental illness and mental distress. I had the pleasure of co-leading this work (with Carol Worthman, Emory University) on behalf of MQ Mental Health. This project, which included 40 co-authors from 5 continents, identified 18 key actions which we believe should be prioritised to prevent the needless loss of life. These actions span three overarching principles: Integration of mental and physical health care; Prioritisation of prevention while strengthening treatment; and Optimisation of intervention synergies across social-ecological levels and the intervention cycle. We really hope that the paper will act as a catalyst for coordinated action globally.
During Mental Health Month in May, in collaboration with Google, IASP has provided input on mental health resources and signposting to sources of support. Indeed, the central office and board have been working closely with Google Health to develop appropriate pre-written messages and prompts to help people in crisis. For example, when someone searches for suicide-related terms in the US (as it is being trialled there first), they’ll see a prompt with conversation starters they can send via text message to someone within their network. At the same time, IASP has also published its own suicidal crisis support page on the website. While IASP is not a crisis centre, it’s important that we are able to signpost to relevant organisations and potential support mechanisms for both those in crisis and persons supporting someone in a suicidal crisis.
Earlier in the year, the Board commissioned external advisors to conduct an organisational evaluation of IASP to help us reflect on recent years and plan for the future. Specifically, the evaluation aims to provide insights into the performance of the organisation, the factors that affect its performance, and make recommendations for future development. This will help inform our strategic planning for the next 5 years and it could identify potential changes in the governance of IASP. I look forward to sharing the findings of this independent evaluation later in the year.
If you have any feedback about what we could do better as an organisation, please get in touch.
Finally, I hope to meet many of you at one of our future events, perhaps in Piran in September.