Maddeline Mooney is an alumnus of Griffith’s Master of Suicidology. In her own words, she recounts her journey to studying the Master’s degree and how she is now informing the National strategy on suicide prevention.

I grew up in Gippsland, Victoria, before moving to Ballarat to study for my Bachelor of Psychological Science degree and subsequently to Canberra (where I still live) for my Honours in Psychology. About 5 years after I finished my Honours, I started studying for the Master of Suicidology degree at Griffith. Despite doing my first suicide intervention at age 11 and supporting multiple suicidal loved ones as a young adult, I didn’t realise that I wanted to work in suicide prevention until I started volunteering on the Lifeline crisis line in 2010. From there, I joined and eventually ran (voluntarily) the ACT suicide prevention network (called Youth in ACTion for Suicide Prevention). When the opportunity came up through my paid employment to develop my suicide-related knowledge further, I jumped at the chance. My employer supported me to complete the Master of Suicidology program, and I became my agency’s Suicidology Subject Matter Expert. The rest, as they say, is history!

Why did you choose your degree and why did you choose Griffith University?

When the opportunity came up through my paid employment to develop my suicide-related knowledge, I initially started doing some informal reading independently. But to be confident that I was providing the best possible evidence and advice in my role, I felt I needed a more comprehensive foundation of knowledge. I wanted to understand the history of suicide prevention in Australia, as well as contemporary issues. So when I discovered the Master of Suicidology program offered by the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith, it was a perfect fit for me.

What did you like most about studying at Griffith University?

This is a tough question because there wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about studying the Master of Suicidology program with Griffith!

The curriculum was very considered and well structured to ensure we got a good grounding in every facet of suicidology – from research and definitional issues to ethics and public policy to crisis support and clinical practice.

Recognised experts teach the degree in the field who are genuinely passionate about what they do and about helping others learn more about suicide and how to prevent it. My fellow students were equally enthusiastic and supportive. Studying completely online meant that I could fit the course requirements around my full-time job in Canberra.

What is your current role?

Currently, I work as an Assistant Director at the National Mental Health Commission. The National Mental Health Commission’s role is to provide independent policy advice and evidence on improving Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system. When I started studying with Griffith, my goal was to use that knowledge to contribute to the Australian Government’s receiving high-quality, evidence-based policy advice on preventing suicide. The Commission has a unique opportunity to do just that. Since starting at the Commission, I’ve been able to use my suicidology degree to inform governments’ recommendations and even contribute to the refining of the draft National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

What is next?

With the strong government interest and commitment to suicide prevention that we’ve seen, particularly in the last 18 months or so, it’s a very exciting time to work in suicide prevention. Like many, I am eagerly awaiting the Commonwealth Government’s response to the National Suicide Prevention Advisor’s Final advice (delivered in December 2020), to see what developments are coming up. The Government’s response has the potential to significantly improve suicide prevention in Australia. So I am excited to see what comes next for the sector and how I can continue to use my suicidology knowledge and skills to improve outcomes for Australians at risk of suicide. The only thing I can really say to anyone considering studying the Master of Suicidology program is: do it! Regardless of whether you want to work in suicide prevention research, community development, clinical practice or government policy, the program will equip you with the specialist knowledge you need.