The RAFT (Reconnecting AFTer a Suicide Attempt) program is an innovative trial towards a new model of care

The RAFT program, run by the Black Dog Institute, is a great example of the work being done to use technology-based solutions to change the model of care, in this case to specifically address the follow up care for those who attend hospital after a suicide attempt. As the white paper ‘Review of the burden of disease for neurological, mental health and substance use disorders in Australia’ reveals, mental health disorders and suicide cost the nation over $33 billion each year.

Using evidence-driven, technology-based solutions to change the stats

Research has shown that the initial days following discharge from hospital for someone with deliberate self-harm or who has attempted suicide are critical. And yet, one-third of Australians discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt will receive no mental health follow-up.

Led by Dr Mark Larsen, RAFT- an SMS program designed to send supportive messages and links to online material to individuals who have come to hospital following a suicide attempt or incident of self-harm- aims to change this and reduce repeated self-harm and suicide attempts.

This project started after the Care After A Suicide Attempt report, which identified that many people receive online limited, or no follow-up after discharge from hospital following a suicide attempt. The report identified brief contact interventions, such as follow-up postcards, as a promising strategy, reducing repeat attempts by roughly one-third. RAFT extents these simple ‘caring contact’ messages to include links to further online support.

Black Dog Institute has conducted a pilot study across three Emergency Departments in New South Wales and Queensland and is currently in the process of follow-up data collection. Black Dog is also testing a version with tailored content for alcohol use, which is of particular importance since, not only is substance abuse disorder devastating for individuals and their family, the financial burden on the Australian economy has been estimated at $10 billion, according to the white paper ‘Review of the burden of disease for neurological, mental health and substance use disorders in Australia’.

Modelling towards future integration in the community

Having tested the feasibility of the program, Dr Larsen is leading the planning of a larger evaluation trial in collaboration with specific hospitals.

Dr Larsen is committed to driving change.

“As we know, suicide rates in Australia have continued to rise over the past decade, which makes the work we’re doing in this space so vital,” said Dr Larsen.

“Research and building the evidence base is key, but so too is innovation in our approach.”

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