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Keywords:

  • suicide prevention;
  • undergraduate/postgraduate education

Objective: The aim of this study was to survey Australian universities to determine the scope of suicide prevention curricula in a range of prevocational courses.

Method: Coordinators of undergraduate and postgraduate university programs for medicine, nursing, psychology, social work, theology, education, pharmacy, law and journalism were asked to complete a survey instrument to determine whether specific knowledge, attitude and skills items were included in the course content. Additional information was sought concerning the dominant method of teaching. Data were compared by discipline. An arbitrary threshold of 70% of courses within each discipline responding positively to each survey item was established as an adequate level of penetrance of that item into prevocational programs.

Results: Overall, knowledge and attitudes related to suicide prevention are taught more comprehensively than are skills. Knowledge and attitude items are taught most comprehensively in medical and nursing schools, somewhat less in psychology, social work, and pharmacy, uncommonly in theology and education. Law and journalism courses currently include very little material related to suicide and suicide prevention. Skills relevant to the management of suicidal individuals and their families are taught most comprehensively in psychology, nursing and medical courses, with low penetrance into other courses.

Conclusion: The greatest opportunity to increase exposure to knowledge and attitudes relevant to suicide prevention exists within education, theology, law and journalism courses. Programs directed to the development of interpersonal skills relevant to the management of suicidal individuals and their families could be introduced across the board.