Orygen’s #chatsafe initiative has won Suicide Prevention Australia’s 2021 LiFE Award for innovation.
Announced on World Suicide Prevention Day, the award goes to “an individual or organisation that has demonstrated innovation to address, prevent, or respond to suicidal behaviours and their impact, and delivers quality processes informed by evidence”.
The #chatsafe initiative was developed by Orygen’s suicide prevention team under the leadership of Associate Professor Jo Robinson, who said young people had been integral to the team’s ground-breaking approach.
“We developed the #chatsafe initiative after hearing that young people wanted guidance and support to help them communicate safely online about suicide,” Associate Professor Robinson said.
“At the time the dominant narrative was that young people shouldn’t be using social media platforms to talk about suicide, but actually young people were saying something different. To them social media provided a really important platform for talking about something they found hard to talk about in their offline worlds and we didn’t want to take that away from them.”
The #chatsafe initiative comprises a set of world-first evidence-informed guidelines and a social media campaign designed to directly support young people to communicate safely on social media about suicide.
The #chatsafe guidelines were first released in Australia in August 2018 and have since been made available to Facebook’s 2.41 billion users. The guidelines have also been developed into local languages for young people in Brazil, Finland, Hong Kong, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Sharanjit Kaur, a young person who was involved in the co-design of #chatsafe, said the initiative had saved lives.
“For myself, #chatsafe quickly became a game-changer in my own mental health journey and struggles with suicide. I am able to help others who are on social media as well by directing them to #chatsafe. This is something I have done many times since it was launched,” Sharanjit said.
“I am standing proof that the #chatsafe initiative can and has saved lives. I feel that #chatsafe has even more potential and have no doubt that under the guidance of Associate Professor Jo Robinson, it can continue to save more lives and equip more people in the future.”
In recommending #chatsafe to Suicide Prevention Australia, Orygen executive director Professor Patrick McGorry said the initiative represented best-practice in suicide prevention in a number of ways.
“It is evidence-based and has been rigorously evaluated; it has involved young people with lived experience every step of the way; and it represents a partnership not only with the suicide prevention sector but also with the social media industry, thereby ensuring that the initiative will have maximum translational impact reaching young people all over the world,” Professor McGorry said.
Development of the #chatsafe guidelines was funded by the Australian Government under the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program.
In September 2020 Orygen received a further $400,000 in Australian Government funding to continue its #chatsafe program.