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Appointment of Deputy Chief Medical Officer a step in the right direction for mental health

Appointment of Deputy Chief Medical Officer a step in the right direction for mental health


Australia’s national peak body for suicide prevention, Suicide Prevention Australia, welcomes the announcement of the first Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health.

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray is encouraged by the appointment of Associate Professor Ruth Vine, and said that the announcement was a positive step toward a whole of government approach to managing the impacts of COVID-19.

“Any meaningful response needs to take a whole of government, whole of community approach to suicide prevention.

“We hope that Ms Vine will move into her role quickly as we need action now to reduce the high levels of distress in our communities.

“We applaud the intention to develop a long-term plan to support mental health and wellbeing, but we also know there are people who are disconnected and distressed right now. These people need urgent support.

“That’s why we need Governments to set up safe spaces that give people in crisis options other than waiting in an emergency department.

“We also recommend at least one frontline officer in every Centrelink and tax office trained in suicide prevention so that vulnerable people making contact with Government services can get the timely help they need.

“Any mental health plan needs to consider options to help people through the stressors that we know increase suicide risk, including unemployment, financial stress, and social isolation – and not just through the lens of mental ill health.

“We also need to collect strong data on the impact COVID-19 is having on the community, by conducting a special edition of the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing within the next three (3) months.

“We look forward to working with Ms Vine in her new role and hearing more from the Government this Friday, on their plans for a holistic national mental health plan,” Ms Murray concluded.

Suicide Prevention Australia is calling for the following:

  • Investing in a dedicated, well-resourced National Suicide Prevention Office.
  • Passing a Suicide Prevention Act to make every government agency responsible for tackling the root causes of suicide – as we see in nations that have seen a reduction in their suicide rate, like the Republic of Ireland and Japan.
  • Set up a national suicide register as a priority.
  • Train key ‘connectors’ in frontline Government roles to recognise the signs of suicidal distress and connect them to support services – this means suicide prevention training for every Centrelink and/or tax office across the nation.
  • Rolling out a new iteration of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey over the next two months, so we have a clear picture rather than just predictive modelling.
  • Sharing real-time data with all government departments, as well as suicide prevention researchers, program and service agents.

Funding the states and territories to rapidly set up safe space ‘pop ups’ so that people who are in suicidal crisis have options other than waiting in emergency departments for help.

Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to www.mindframe-media.info

To get help 24/7, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, phone 000 for emergency services.