The new HAAVA project focuses on encountering persons at risk for suicide

Publication date 7.10.2021 12.56
News item

According to rough estimates, several tens of thousands of persons engage in self-destructive behaviour, or are at acute risk for suicide every year. However, no accurate statistics are available.

The new HAAVA project, focusing on challenging interactional situations, supports the implementation of the National Mental Health Strategy and Programme for Suicide Prevention 2020–2030. One of the measures is to provide education and training for those who encounter people at risk for suicide, or suffering from mental health disorders. 

“Suicide prevention has become increasingly successful in Finland, and the number of deaths by suicide has steadily declined. Influencing factors include better identification and treatment of depression, and interventions in problematic alcohol consumption. Assistance to those at risk for suicide has been provided in cross-administrative collaboration, and in cooperation with organisations that promote mental health. Now, we continue with this work,” says Pirjo Jukarainen, researcher at the Police University College.

The police have the competence and obligation to intervene in self-destructive behaviour of individuals. This may include providing executive assistance to social welfare and health authorities, apprehending a self-destructive person, or preventing an act that endangers health and safety. The HAAVA project begins with a preliminary survey that involves interviews of and a questionnaire for both police personnel working in the field, and students having returned to Police University College after completing a practical training period. At this stage, the survey focuses on the need for training in how to encounter persons engaging in self-destructive behaviour, and resolving situations in which the risk for suicide is acute. 

On the basis of the results, online teaching material will be produced for use both in the Bachelor of Police Services degree and continuing education programs at the Police University College. The online teaching material will provide, for example, basic information on the risk factors relating to suicide, and practical guidelines for everyday encounters.

“This type of online teaching material is in high demand, because in most cases, “ordinary” police patrols responding to calls in the field are the ones that encounter self-destructive individuals. A specially trained tactical negotiator participates mainly in situations in which other persons are at grave danger, or if the incident becomes prolonged,” Jukarainen says.

“It is great that we can promote the achievement of the goals of the Programme for Suicide Prevention together with a broad-based team of experts,” says project coordinator, Chief Specialist Pia Solin from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL. 

The HAAVA project is carried out in cooperation by specialists for mental health promotion in the THL mental health team, and the Police University College’s teaching and RDI operations. It is supported by a team of specialists, including representatives of local police and organisations involved in the promotion of mental health, as well as experts by experience. MIELI Mental Health Finland contributes expertise on encountering immigrants, and MIELI is also involved in the PASEK project for strengthening mental health work among immigrants through cross-sectoral cooperation. 

The HAAVA project receives funding from the support for the implementation of the National Mental Health Strategy and Programme for Suicide Prevention.