Life in Mind is sharing a series of short interviews with suicide prevention researchers, to provide the sector with an insight into the important work that is being performed across the country.
Life in Mind would like to introduce, Dr Karl Andriessen, NHMRC Early Career Fellow in the Centre for Mental Health, School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne. Dr Andriessen is a well-known researcher in the field of suicide prevention and postvention, in Australia and internationally.
What led you to enter research?
My involvement is strongly rooted in clinical work, starting 30 years ago as a Social Worker in youth and family counselling, and telephone crisis lines, followed by leading positions in suicide prevention, bereavement service, helplines, community mental health centres, and policy development. However, field work in suicide prevention did not always match with was described in the literature.
Over time I became increasingly engaged in research, which helped me to fully understand both the potential and limitations of suicide prevention.
My current stance is that we should value findings from research and practice, as both perspectives are needed in understanding what works in suicide prevention and bereavement support.
Can you provide a brief overview of your research?
I have a very broad interest in suicide research. My main focus is on bereavement after suicide, which, sadly, is still an understudied field. For example, over the last years I have conducted a mixed-methods study investigating the grief, mental health, and help-seeking experiences of adolescents who had lost a significant other by suicide or other cause. Based on the findings of that study, we developed a novel instrument to measure grief in adolescents.
Currently I am starting a new study, looking at the effectiveness of suicide bereavement support. In addition, I am also involved in studies on suicide and particular methods, and media and suicide prevention. I also have a keen interest in volunteer involvement in suicide prevention, sports events and suicide, and suicide in history and the arts.
How would you best explain the process of translating research into practice?
We must continue to encourage dialogues between research, practice, and policy. Obviously, there may be several challenges, for example, related to professional training, competition between services, intersectoral silos, and funding rules. Still, individuals working in this field have an open mind and are fully aware that no-one alone will make a difference.
Amongst fundamental questions related to the nature of suicide, research must answer real life questions on how to help suicidal persons.