BA (Hons) (UTas), MAppEpid (ANU), PhD (Melbourne)
Professor Jane Pirkis has combined her two foundation disciplines – Psychology and Epidemiology – to forge a highly successful research career in population mental health. Over the past 25 years, her work has had a particular focus on the major public health problem of suicide and its prevention.
Jane is the Director of the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She leads a team of researchers who bring multi-method approaches to bear on questions about how to reduce suicide. Jane’s work is highly regarded because of its methodological rigour and far-reaching influence on policy and practice.
There are numerous examples of the impact of Jane’s work, but two are provided here. The first is her work on ‘suicide hotspots’ – public sites which gain a reputation as places where people tragically seek to end their lives. Jane has conducted empirical studies and meta-analyses of interventions at these sites, showing that structural modifications (e.g., barriers) work. Efforts designed to increase help-seeking (e.g., signs displaying crisis line numbers) or maximize the likelihood of intervention by a third party (e.g., CCTV cameras) also show promise. Jane’s work has been used by advocates to successfully argue for the introduction of these interventions on bridges and overpasses locally (e.g., in Tasmania and New South Wales) and internationally (e.g., in Canada and the UK).
A second example of Jane’s influence is her internationally renowned work on suicide and the media. Her research has shown that irresponsible reporting of suicide can lead to copycat acts, and this has informed Australian and international media guidelines on safer ways to present suicide-related stories. She has also looked at the media’s potential in suicide prevention, conducting projects that examine messaging for media campaigns, and partnering with Movember and Heiress Films to make and evaluate Man Up, an ABC documentary on suicide and masculinity that was watched by millions. Jane ’s work has made a major contribution to the field of suicide prevention and, almost certainly, saved lives.
Member of the Australian Psychological Society (2000-current)
Fellow of the International Academy of Suicide Research (2014-current)
Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy (2001)
University of Tasmania Distinguished Alumni (2017)
- Pirkis J, Spittal M, Keogh L, Mousaferiadis T, Currier D. (2016). Masculinity and suicidal thinking. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52(3), 319-327.
- Pirkis J, Rosetto A, Nicholas A, Ftanou M. (2016). Advancing knowledge about suicide prevention media campaigns. Crisis, 37(5), 319–322
- Pirkis J, Too LS, Spittal MJ, Krysinska K, Robinson J, Cheung Y-TD. (2015). Interventions to reduce suicides at suicide hotspots: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2, 994-1001.
- Pirkis J, Robinson J. (2014). Improving our understanding of youth suicide clusters. Lancet Psychiatry, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(14)70227-5
- Pirkis J, Machlin A (2013). Differing perspectives on what is important in media reporting of suicide. British Journal of Psychiatry, 203, 168-169