Glossary of terms


  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

    A person who is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; and identifies as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person; and is accepted as such by the community in which s/he lives or has lived.
  • Adverse life event

    An incident within one's life that has the potential to cause emotional upset, disruption, or negative health outcomes.


  • Bereavement

    The period after a loss (usually through death) during which grief is experienced and mourning occurs.
  • Best practice

    The use of methods (often evidence-based) that achieve improvements and/or optimal outcomes.


  • Capacity building

    Individual - Enhancing and/or developing personal aptitude, strength, coping and/or independence.

    Community - The ability of a community's organisations, groups and individuals collectively) to build their structures, systems, people and skills, so they are better able to define, implement, manage and achieve their shared objectives.

  • Client-centred

    Client-centred therapy or the person-centred approach is a movement associated with humanistic psychology that emphasises `the capacity of each individual to arrive at a personal understanding of his or her destiny, using feelings and intuition rather than being guided by doctrine and reason. Rather than focusing on the origins of client problems in childhood events (psychodynamic) or the achievement of new patterns of behaviour in the future (behavioural), concentrate on the here and now experiencing of the client'1.
  • Clinical paradigm

    This paradigm focuses on repairing damage within a disease or medical model of human functioning.

  • Cognitive

    Mental processes and conscious intellectual activities such as planning, reasoning, problem solving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, learning new words or imagining.
  • Connectedness

    Enquiry into protective factors for suicide has focused on the capacities within people (`resilience factors') and on external `protective factors'2, including a person's sense of belonging and connectedness with others. There is evidence that connections with family, school or a significant adult can reduce risk of suicide for young people. Feelings of connectedness to a partner or parent or responsibility for care of children appear to be protective factors, and `connectedness' within a community has been linked to health and wellbeing.
  • Content

    The quality and the proportion or quantity of information adequately matched to the need.
  • Continuing care

    Engagement with longer-term treatment, support and care where needed.
  • Common factors

    Features of therapy that are common to success, despite the differing theoretical position of each therapist and the specific techniques used.


  • Data

    Statistics that inform on specific aspects of suicide, such as rates and trends of suicide and suicide attempts. Data collection can also be a means of monitoring service arrangements, such as post-discharge follow-up or outcomes.
  • Deliberate self-harm

    Any behaviours causing destruction or alteration of body tissues, with or without the intent to die. It includes self-injury, attempted suicide and other forms of intentional injury to self.
  • Distal factors

    See risk factors.


  • Effectiveness

    The production of an agreed output with a minimum of waste and the minimum consumption of resources (time, cost, labour).
  • Efficacy

    The capacity of a service to deliver a desired result or outcome.
  • Efficiency

    Whether there is the capacity to bring about an effect or outcome.
  • Evaluation

    The continuous process of asking questions, reflecting on the answers to these questions and reviewing ongoing strategy and action.
  • Evidence-based

    Approaches that use and are based on clear evidence from existing literature.


  • Gatekeeper

    A person who holds an influential position in either an organisation or a community who coordinates or oversees the actions of others. This could be an informal local opinion leader or a specifically designated person, such as a primary-care provider, who coordinates patient care and provides referrals to specialists, hospitals, laboratories, and other medical services.


  • Help-seeking

    The process of an individual asking for help or support in order to cope with adverse life events or other difficult circumstances.
  • Holding environment

    Refers to a therapeutic setting that permits the client to experience safety, and thus enhances therapeutic work.


  • Indigenous Australians

    See Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
  • Integrated response

    Interventions that respond to a range of issues using a multi-faceted approach.
  • Indicated Intervention

    Work with individuals who are showing early signs of risk for health problems, with the aim of preventing a condition from arising.
  • Intervention

    To take action or provide a service so as to produce an outcome or modify a situation. Any action taken to improve health or change the course of or treat a disease or dysfunctional behaviour.


  • Jurisdiction

    The area for which a particular government (Commonwealth, State or Territory) is responsible.


  • Loss

    Loss is produced by an incident which is perceived to be negative by those involved and results in long-term change.


  • Medium

    The mode, means or carrier (person or resource) through which information or support is provided.
  • Mental disorder

    A recognised, medically diagnosable illness or disorder that results in significant impairment of an individual's thinking and emotional abilities and may require intervention. There are many different mental disorders.
  • Mental health problem

    A situation in which a person experiences some disturbance or impairment of normal emotions and/or thinking.
  • Mental health promotion

    Action to maximise mental health and wellbeing among populations and individuals.
  • Multi-faceted

    Having many aspects or facets.
  • Multi-sector, multi-disciplinary approach

    Approaches that involve a combination of expertise from a range of disciplines and professions, involving agencies, organisations, and persons from a range of distinct parts or branches of enterprise and/or society.


  • Peer education

    The use of identified and trained peers to provide information aimed at increasing awareness or influencing behaviour change.
  • Population-based interventions

    Interventions targeting populations rather than individuals. They include activities targeting the whole population as well as activities targeting population subgroups such as rural or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Postvention

    Interventions to support and assist the bereaved after a suicide has occurred.
  • Prevention

    Preventing conditions of ill health from arising.
  • Protective factors

    Capacities, qualities, environmental and personal resources that drive individuals towards growth, stability, and health.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    A psychological disorder affecting individuals who have experienced or witnessed profoundly traumatic events, such as torture, murder, rape, or wartime combat, characterised by recurrent flashbacks of the traumatic event, nightmares, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, forgetfulness, and social withdrawal.
  • Predisposing factors

    Non-modifiable factors that may increase a person's susceptibility to suicidal behaviours, such as genetic and neurobiological factors, gender, personality, culture, socio-economic background and level of isolation.
  • Primary care

    The care system that forms the first point of contact for those in the community seeking assistance. It includes community-based care from generalist services such as general practitioners, Aboriginal medical services, school counsellors and community-based health and welfare services.
  • Proximal factors

    See risk factors.


  • Receptivity of client

    The capacity and willingness of the person to receive and absorb information and support.

  • Recovery

    Recovery is the process of a gradual restoration of a satisfying, hopeful and meaningful way of life.
  • Resilience

    Capacities within a person that promote positive outcomes, such as mental health and wellbeing, and provide protection from factors that might otherwise place that person at risk of suicide. Resilience is often described as `the ability to bounce back from adversity'. Factors that contribute to resilience include personal coping skills and strategies for dealing with adversity, such as problem-solving, cognitive and emotional skills, communication skills and help-seeking behaviours.
  • Risk factors

    Factors such as biological, psychological, social and cultural agents that are associated with suicide/suicide ideation. Risk factors can be defined as either distal (internal factors, such as genetic or neurochemical factors) or proximal (external factors, such as life events or the availability of lethal means - factors which can `trigger' a suicide or suicidal behaviour).


  • Selective Intervention

    Activities that target population or community groups at higher risk for a particular problem, rather than the whole population or particular individuals. This might include working with the families of those bereaved through suicide or, for instance children who have been traumatised or abused over time.
  • Self-injury

    Deliberate damage of body tissue, often in response to psychosocial distress, without the intent to die. Sometimes called non-suicidal self-injury, self-inflicted injuries or self-harm.
  • Suicidal behaviour

    Includes the spectrum of activities related to suicide and self-harm including suicidal thinking, self-harming behaviours not aimed at causing death and suicide attempts. Some writers also include deliberate recklessness and risk-taking behaviours as suicidal behaviours.
  • Suicidal ideation

    Thoughts about attempting or completing suicide.
  • Suicide prevention

    Actions or initiatives to reduce the risk of suicide among populations or specific target groups.

  • Support

    To assist with the burden or the weight of an issue, problem or adversity. Support can take many forms, including information provision, services and face-to-face counselling.
  • Sustainability

    The ability of a program to function over the long-term.


  • Timeliness of service

    Provision of information, service or support at the most appropriate or opportune moment for it to be received, understood and meaningfully applied.
  • Tipping point

    The point at which a person's risk of suicide increases due to the occurrence of some precipitating event, such as a negative life event or an increase in symptoms of a mental disorder.


  • Universal Intervention

    Interventions that target the whole of a population or populations. In suicide prevention, these include activities to reduce access to means of suicide, to reduce media coverage of suicide, or to create stronger and more supportive families, schools and communities.


  • Warning signs

    Behaviours that indicate a possible increased risk of suicide, such as giving away possessions, talking about suicide or the withdrawal from family, friends and normal activities.