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PSME449 Introduction to Suicidology and Suicide Prevention

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website

A broad introduction to the complex issue of suicide and approaches to suicide prevention for a range of students and professional groups.

An introduction to the study of suicidal behaviours and the foundations of suicide prevention including: exploration of the historical, theoretical, cultural, epidemiological, and sociological interpretations of suicide, the different disciplines which contribute to suicide knowledge, research methodologies in suicide studies, international and local prevention strategies and the research evidence which informs them.

This distance paper addresses the core themes of suicidology and suicide prevention with an emphasis on developing critical thinking in relation to the current evidence base. This paper is designed for a broad range of students across sectors including those working in the mental health sector as well as those working more widely in government agencies who wish to increase their knowledge base, critical thinking and research skills in relation to suicide and its prevention.

Paper title Introduction to Suicidology and Suicide Prevention
Paper code PSME449
Subject Psychological Medicine
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $2,889.00
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $10,674.00

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PSME 429
Limited to
PGCertHealSc, PGDipHealSc, MHealSc
This is not a clinical skills paper and will not equip you with specific skills in suicide prevention.

Students who have completed an undergraduate degree in any discipline or recognised equivalent.

Enrolments for this paper are limited and it requires departmental permission. View more information about limitations of enrolment.


Department of Psychological Medicine, Wellington Campus

Teaching staff

Dr Sarah McKenzie will be leading this paper with input from other researchers and experts in the field.

Paper Structure

This paper aims to increase knowledge around a number of core topics including: the history and epidemiology of suicidal behaviours, ambiguities around definitions and data collection, different theoretical frameworks and models, the possible aetiology of suicide at the individual, community and societal levels, quantitative and qualitative research approaches relating to suicide, the development of suicide prevention and an understanding of evidence based strategies.

The paper will be internally assessed with 4 assignments.

Teaching Arrangements

Distance taught online with weekly or fortnightly Zoom conferences.


A variety of general texts and journals relevant to the paper will be available via the library

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Information Literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the phenomena of suicide and suicidal behaviours as they relate to individuals, communities and populations.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of theoretical, historical, cultural and social frameworks as they relate to suicide and suicidal behaviours.
  3. Describe and be familiar with research approaches relating to suicide, and their strengths and limitations from a range of perspectives.
  4. Have an appreciation of contemporary issues within suicide prevention.

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system