New foundation to help save young lives

Chairman Ronald Woss AM, Young Lives Matter Foundation launch. Image courtesy of UWA

A new foundation at The University of Western Australia will support research to identify trigger points for youth suicide and measures to help predict when someone is at high risk.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds worldwide, and while there is extensive research surrounding suicide prevention, there is less understanding about who is most vulnerable and at risk.

The Young Lives Matter Foundation, launched by Member for Curtin and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop, will bring together medical professionals, mathematicians and data analysts to work together to identify trends in youth suicide behaviour.

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater said the cross-disciplinary research project would develop a worldwide risk index to predict the risk of suicidal behaviour in young people.

“Youth suicide is an increasingly complex issue and there are huge benefits to undertaking this project now, given advances in modelling and analytics as well as mental health research,” Professor Freshwater said.

“Through this initiative and the appointment of world-leading experts in mental health and allied fields, we can provide insight and greater understanding of youth suicide to support to our young people.”

Young Lives Matter Foundation Chairman Ronald Woss AM, whose daughter tragically took her own life in 1988, said there was a great urgency for this kind of research to help identify those at risk so that families, medical practitioners and the community could support young people before it was too late.

“Every month, every year that we don’t do something to address this issue we are losing more and more young lives,” Mr Woss said.

“We need to better understand what the stressors are throughout young people’s lives and get to them early, before they reach the critical point of risk.”

Once the index is developed, the Foundation will apply it to other risk groups worldwide. The Foundation has received seed funding from Dr John Harriot, the R. W. Woss AM Family and the estate of Dr Ted Finn and is now looking to secure further funding to progress this initiative.

Source: UWA

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