The proposed documentary, ‘Can Science Prevent Suicide’ with Osher Gunsberg will investigate how new science, innovative thinking and technology is helping prevent suicide. Through the prism of his own struggles with mental health, Osher will present a comprehensive portrait of suicide in Australia today; investigate why it’s happening, and feature what is being done across the country to mitigate the problem. Amongst the themes to be explored in the documentary is the psychology behind suicide ideation and what is going on in the minds of people who want to take their own lives. We’ll also identify the experts that are making a difference and showcase the latest evidence-based treatments that are saving lives. The film will also identify suicide hotspots in Australia and which cultural and community clusters need the most urgent help. We will also meet survivors of suicide and follow their journey to help prevent others from attempting suicide.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Australia is often thought of as “the lucky country”. So why is it that eight people a day die from suicide? In fact, every day 179 people attempt to take their own lives across Australia. The situation is nothing short of a national crisis. Yet the experts agree that suicide is preventable. A powerful television program that informs Australians about the current predicament is not only needed, but it could actually save lives.
This documentary will focus on positive advances in science, technology and psychology to understand the causes of suicide, and ways we can prevent it. Experts describe the emerging science as ‘revolutionary’ and Australia is at the forefront of this revolution. We believe this will be the first documentary in the world to comprehensively showcase the new science being recruited to prevent suicide. And by including the stories of those who have survived suicide, and learnt to overcome suicidal feelings, we believe this documentary will have a very real impact.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
The documentary will focus on solutions, and what Australia and Australians can do to reduce the national suicide rate. The mission statement of this film is to go beyond the informative. Its charter is to be part of the solution and help stop suicide by offering hope and some practical answers. No country has got it right yet when it comes to suicide prevention. Australia has the opportunity to become a global pioneer in this field, and this documentary could greatly assist that cause.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
Discussion of suicide in the media is often fraught with difficulty. There are always concerns that it might trigger negative reactions. We hope that in the context of exploring new thinking, and the presentation of scientific advances into suicide prevention, we might encourage more open, honest and ultimately positive discussion of the subject. In the medium-term, we hope that this film might form part of school curriculums in particular, and be a valuable aid to efforts in schools to educate, inform and counsel young Australians more broadly about the issue. In the long-term, we hope that by highlighting the positive work being undertaken by the Australian scientific community, more public, government and corporate attention and resources might result and help fund continuing research into this vitally important area.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
As part of research and development of the documentary, we have engaged with many individuals, as well as research and advocacy and support institutions around the country. These include SANE Australia, the Black Dog Institute, Mindframe, the University of Melbourne and Lifeline, and we anticipate others will come on board in our pre-production period. The presenter Osher Gunsberg is a Board Director of SANE Australia which provides us with a valuable connection in the area of advocacy and support. Some of these organisations will feature in the documentary itself, while others have expressed interest in on-going collaboration, with a view to not only editorial support, but in an Outreach capacity during and beyond the broadcast period. We see this taking the form of online extensions via the SBS website to provide further context; information and links to support services; as well as follow-up public and broadcast forums - as we have done in previous Lune Media/SBS series.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
1. We hope that viewers, particularly young males, will be encouraged to more freely discuss and investigate the solutions offered in this documentary, whether that be at an individual/family level or in their schools and workplaces.
2. We hope that those directly impacted by the issues canvassed in the documentary - particularly those who recognise they have suicidal ideations - will be encouraged to seek new and possibly alternative avenues of support and treatment. These might be solutions that they had not been previously aware of or may not have fully understood .
3.We hope that through the stories of those who have survived suicide, and have been able to manage suicidal feelings, that the broader viewing audience might develop a greater understanding and empathy for those who experience suicidal ideation. We hope that this will empower them to better support people in this kind of need.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
Social media reaction to broadcast can often provide us with ‘straw poll’ data, indicating the immediate success, or otherwise of the message we’re trying to convey in the program. We’ll monitor that - and through our program partnerships, be able to evaluate other responses and uptakes of information – from mental health clients and health practitioners alike. During research and development discussions, the University of Melbourne has indicated they want to do a long-term study of the film and scientifically track its progress towards helping reduce suicides. This seems like a great opportunity to further measure the impact of the program.